17th Sunday, O T Year A – 17
1 Kgs.3:5, 7-12/ Rom.8:28-30/ Matt.13:44-52
Little Mary listened intently in Sunday school while the teacher explained the parable of the “treasure” and “pearl” and gave a detailed description of eternal bliss in Heaven. She concluded her class asking the question, “All those who are ready to go to Heaven, raise your hands.”
Every hand went up except one. “Why, don’t you want to go to Heaven, Mary?” asked the teacher. “Well,” Mary replied, “Mom was baking apple pie when I left home!”
Every now and then we may wonder what life is all about. If we have to answer that question again today, what will our answer be? What is life all about actually?
If we had seen the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994), in the beginning scenes, we may remember what he said to the lady when they were both sitting on the bench at the bus-stop.
“My mama always said: Life is like a box of chocolates; you’ll never know what you’re goanna get”. That is so simple an illustration and yet so true, isn’t it?
Indeed, life is like a box of chocolates and you’ll never know what you are going to get. You hope that it’s sweet but it may turn out to be bitter. Sometimes it melts in your hand before it could melt in your mouth.
And some chocolates are like fruitcakes – they have some nuts in them. There is this joke about a tour bus driver who was driving a bus load of senior citizens. After a while a little old lady came up and offered him a small bag of peanuts, which he gladly munched up.
After a while, she came up again with another bag of peanuts, and after a while yet another bag. Then the bus driver asked: Why don’t you eat the peanuts yourself? She replied: We can’t chew them because we have no teeth.
The puzzled driver asked: Then why do you buy them? She replied: We just love the chocolate coating on them, and we think that you might like the peanuts.
Well, life might be like a box of chocolates but you may not know where the peanuts came from. But if we can enjoy the chocolate and also chew on the peanuts, then we are indeed happy.
So actually, life is all about happiness. And yet life is also all about the search for happiness. Some search for it in trying to strike the lottery or 4D. Some look for it in fast cars and living on the fast lane.
And in today’s gospel parables, happiness is in finding a hidden treasure and in a pearl of great value. But the images of the parables point to a deeper reality and a deeper mystery, and that is the kingdom of heaven.
But the kingdom of heaven is not somewhere out there that is hidden and that we have to search for it. The kingdom of heaven is here, and in fact it is within us, and happy are we when we realize it.
Yes, the kingdom of heaven is happening around us and even in us. And the 2nd reading tells us that whatever is happening is turned to our good, turned to our happiness when we have love for God.
When I was a pastor in India I had a car. One day there was an emergency call to go and anoint a person then I was in a hurry to go and something happened to my car and I wasn’t too pleased about it.
I was taking the car out of a small tent that I made for the car to go to the hospital and in a moment of distraction, I scratched the side of the car against an iron pipe. It was not a serious dent but it is quite unsightly and I intended to get it fixed.
Then I came upon this story that made me think about what happened in a different light. The story is about a young and successful executive who was driving along a neighborhood street in his new flashy sports car.
As he passed a side lane, he heard something smash into the car’s side door. He immediately stopped the car and angrily got out and saw that it was a brick and it had caused a deep dent on the car door.
He looked around and saw a boy standing nearby and went up to him and grabbed his collar and shouted: What did you do that for? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money!
The boy was quivering and said: Sorry sir, sorry. But I didn’t know what else to do. I threw the brick because no one would stop to help.
With tears streaming down his face, he pointed to the side lane and said: It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.
Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive: Would you please help me get him back on the wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried to swallow the lump that is welling up in his throat. He lifted the handicapped boy to his wheelchair and a quick look told him that everything was okay.
The grateful boy then told the young executive: Thank you very much sir, and God bless you. Too shook up for words, the young man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair bound brother down the lane and back home.
It was a long slow walk back to his sports car. The damage was quite obvious, but the young man never bothered to repair the dented car door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.
And neither I fixed that scratch on my car till I left to USA for my ministry, because it taught me a lesson: Not to be in a hurry, take time and then do not be too fast in life.
Well, God won’t throw bricks at us or scratch our cars. Rather He whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts to tell us what life is all about and what happiness is all about. Life can be like a box of chocolates and you will never know what you are going to get.
But when we love God, then all things will happen for our good. And we will enjoy the chocolate, as well as the peanuts. We should live every moment in view of our precious goal.
Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, social status or worldly pleasures. Thus, the really valuable pearl of sharing in God’s life through Jesus here on earth and later in Heaven, is never found.
Let us always remember that Heaven is within the reach of all of us who try to do the will of God following the ordinary vocations of life and enjoying this world’s joys and pleasures within the framework of God’s Commandments.
When we do so, we are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven while we are still on earth. Amen.