Homily: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Readings of the Day

It was tornado season and a young girl did a very silly thing: she went into the house rather than the cellar when a twister was on the horizon. The house flew up into the sky and came down someplace other than Kansas; Dorothy found herself in Oz. She got there in the best of circumstances since her house killed the Wicked Witch of the East on arrival, but in spite of becoming an instant hero to the Munchkins she only wanted to go home. So she followed the yellow brick road. Along the way she found three friends to help her; even though they were imperfect,  missing a brain, a heart, and courage, they saw her through the dangerous journey to see the Wizard, and helped her defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.

But no one could help her go home. The Wizard turned out to be a fraud, her friends even with their new abilities couldn’t help her, and it took the Good Witch to tell her the great secret. The means for her return where the ruby slippers she wore the whole time. What she needed was right there, even though she didn’t realize what she had. She never realized the great treasure she had with her all along.

Jesus’ disciples probably didn’t know what they had.  Throughout the Gospels they journeyed with Him, heard the parables, saw the miracles, and even though they said it they understood today’s gospel reading, it’s doubtful they really did. The images Jesus uses are once again rather extreme and against common sense. I don’t know much about business, but Jesus seems to be teaching us to do the opposite of diversifying our portfolios. Finding a treasure in the field and buying the field without telling the owner what you found sounds a little bit dishonest. But Jesus isn’t teaching us how to do business. He’s trying to communicate to his listeners the value of what they have, and the priority it should take in their lives. The kingdom of heaven is the greatest treasure on earth, and it is worth far more than what we can accumulate.

As we seek the kingdom of heaven, it’s easy to overlook what’s in front of our eyes. It’s easy to undervalue those around us, particularly when we can see their shortcomings. The kingdom of heaven is all around us: we don’t have to invent it and we don’t have to create it out of thin air. God is already doing that. Being People of the kingdom means recognizing God’s presence in everything around us, and finding the Spirit in what is old as well as what is new. God’s creative work has been going on for millennia, and we shouldn’t expect to find it all in one place from one time.

What happens today seems very ordinary, it’s easy to forget what the Eucharist is and what it means to us. Like Dorothy looking at the tornado, we may not recognize its power to unhinge us and take us to a new place. Even when Jesus takes us to a new place, our first impulse may be to get back anyway we can. What we have in our midst isn’t a pair of Ruby slippers, but the Body and Blood of Christ, which can take us to a better place than the home we may think we need to be. Christ takes us where we should go, and empowers us as ordinary, imperfect people to help bring healing and justice so the kingdom of heaven can be seen around us with clear eyes.

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