Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!
I neither borrow nor lend,
yet all curse me.
When I found your words, I devoured them;
they became my joy and the happiness of my heart,
Because I bore your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit celebrating
in the circle of merrymakers;
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone
because you filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
whose waters do not abide!
Thus the LORD answered me:
If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand;
If you bring forth the precious without the vile,
you shall be my mouthpiece.
Then it shall be they who turn to you,
and you shall not turn to them;
And I will make you toward this people
a solid wall of brass.
Though they fight against you,
they shall not prevail,
For I am with you,
to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.
I will free you from the hand of the wicked,
and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Do all necessary things to reach the kingdom of heaven.
In order to value something, people, first-of-all, must know what that thing can do to them; if they don’t know its value, they shall not value it and spend their time and effort to search for it. For examples, a fine pearl before a swine; the ancient manucripts of Scripture before an atheist.
Today readings want to emphasize that people must have keen eyes to recognize the values of God’s words and the kingdom of heaven. These two things have a close relationship, God’s words guide people to attain the kingdom of heaven. In the first reading, when the prophet Jeremiah heard God’s words, he happily swallowed it; but it is also because of God’s words, he was opposed and hated by people so that he suspected even his existence in the world. But the Lord came to strengthen his spirit. He promised that if Jeremiah is faithful in his prophetic mission, He shall make him become as a solid wall of brass, liberate him from all wicked enemies and give him salvation. In the Gospel, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven as the treasure which is hidden in the field, or as the precious pearl; when someone finds it, he shall go home and shall all what he has to buy the field or the precious pearl.
1/ Reading I: God provided hope for the prophet Jeremiah in time of trials.
1.1/ The double effects of God’s words: On the one side, God’s words are the reason for the prophetic mission. If a prophet doesn’t speak God’s words, he is no longer a God’s prophet. Therefore, a prophet must be happy when he receives God’s words as the prophet Jeremiah said in today passage, “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” The author of the Book of Revelation expressed this in another way, “I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour” (Rev 10:10).
On the other side, the prophet Jeremiah also felt the bitterness of God’s words when he carried out his mission to the point that he cried out, “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! A man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet all curse me.” He was opposed and cursed because he spoke words which people don’t want to hear. They want to have peace while he kept foretelling war; they want prosperity while he fortold famine and exile, etc.
A prophet must speak and live according to the truth while people like shallow and superficial knowledge. This is the reason for the prophet to feel isolated with all people, he “did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers… but must sat alone.” Not only that but he also was avoided by people like a horrible object. Jeremiah was thrown to a well full of mud; when he sit in the mud, he questioned the effect of God’s words for people.
1.2/ God strengthened Jeremiah’s faith: First of all, God wanted Jeremiah to understand that he is God’s mouthpiece; he can’t say anything but what He wants him to say. If he doesn’t want to speak or says things which is different with what He commanded, he is no longer His prophet.
Next, people must hear and practice God’s words through the prophet, not that the prophet must change God’s words to harmonize with people’s way of life or their desire. He reminded Jeremiah in today passage, “it shall be they who turn to you, and you shall not turn to them.”
Then, opposition and suffering can’t be avoided when the prophet carries out his mission because the nature of the prophetic mission contains them. Since people lost their way and lived far away from God, a prophet must fight against the devil, the world, and people’s fleshy weaknesses to bring them back to God. Fighting against that three enemies aren’t easy; but with God’s power, a prophet can do it. As God promised Jeremiah, “I will make you toward this people a solid wall of brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the Lord.”
Lastly, a loyal prophet shall overcome all obstacles and receive the glorious reward. A God’s prophet can’t be failure because he doesn’t fight alone, but together with the Lord of Sabaoth. He shall grant the last victory for him.
2/ Gospel: Out of joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
2.1/ People need to know the value of the kingdom of heaven: Jesus clearly revealed God’s will for human beings which is to live an eternal and happy life with Him in heaven (Jn 6:39-40). Therefore, the purpose of life is to attain the kingdom of heaven, not anything else such as: to become rich, to reach high position or to have beautiful wife and smart kids, etc.
Why does the kingdom of heaven have a higher value than any worldly value? There are many reasons, but we only cite the main reasons here. The kingdom of heaven is everlasting, perfect, complete happiness, can’t be lost; while the worldly value is temporal, imperfect, not true happiness and can be easily lost.
2.2/ People must sacrifice all things for the kingdom of heaven: How can one reach the kingdom of heaven? Jesus answered: “Sells all that he has and buys that.”
First, people’s temptation is to have both the kingdom of God and worldly things. One danger of catching fish with both hands is that if we don’t sell all what we have, we shall be tempted by what we keep; and then, instead of to buy the kingdom of heaven, we are content with what we have in this world.
If we want to reach the kingdom of heaven, Jesus requires us to listen and to do God’s teaching. This isn’t easy to do because God’s thought and way are very different with human thought and way. To live according to God’s standard, we must accept lost, suffering, opposition and even death.
But we don’t fight alone, God shall fight with us by the strength of His grace. He shall help us to overcome all obstacles and promises to give victory for those who are loyal to follow His way. Living according to the kingdom of heaven’s standards not only brings us the eternal and everlasting in the next life but also gives us joy and peace in the present life.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should understand and ascertain the importance of the kingdom of heaven; if not, we shall not sacrifice what we have.
– To sell material things is difficult, but to sacrifice our will and to follow Christ is even more difficult. We need to pray for God’s strength.
– What is difficult to us, shall not be difficult with God. We need to believe in God’s promise to Jeremiah: I shall be with you to save and to liberate you from your enemy.