SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
(Green) Cycle A/Year I (July 30, 2017)
1Kgs 3:5, 7-12/Rom 8:20-30/Mt 13:44-52
Perhaps many of you are familiar with the story told by Russell Conwell entitled “Acres of Diamonds.” Conwell was an American Baptist minister and lawyer who founded and became the first president of the Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was famous for his inspirational lecture “Acres of Diamonds” which he delivered 6,000 times around the world. The main idea of his speech is that one needs not to look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement or fortune; the resources to achieve all good things are present in one’s own community. He began his speech with an anecdote told to him by an Arab guide about a farmer who sold his farm and all his belongings to look for a mine of diamonds. That farmer spent all his money going from one place to another in search of diamonds until he spent all his money and died a poor man without finding any diamond. The new owner of his home discovered that a rich mine of diamonds is located right there in the property.
The anecdote in Acres of Diamonds is actually different and contrary to the parables in the gospel. While the parables tell us to sell all the things that we have in order to buy the one of great value, the anecdote tells us never to sell what we have because it is there that the thing of great value can be encountered. Though the parables and the anecdote may seem contrary to each other, but they have valid teachings that are not contrary but rather complimentary. While the parables teach us to search for the one of great value, the anecdote teaches us that such one of great value may be located right there within our reach, in our own place or even in ourselves. The anecdote also teaches us never to sell what we have unless we first discover one of great value in other place than ours. Then, selling of what is ours is necessary to acquire the one of great value which is located in other place.
In our daily life, we find a lot of treasures, some in our work; others in our recreation; from time to time in our family; and many times in money, power, fame and even in our ambitions and personal desires. Examining all these treasures, we find out that these, while they constantly compel us to desire them all the more, do not give us true contentment and happiness in life. Those treasures vary in value and in our appreciation depending on the situation, time and our personal considerations. In other words, they actually do not satisfy our undying longing for eternal joy and the fullness of life. We can then conclude that not one of them is the one of great value which is worth the sacrifice of our money, time, talent and even life.
In our Christian life, we discover that the one of great value is none other than our relationship with God or, simply put in two words, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fullness of our lives because God has created us according to His own image and likeness who is Jesus Christ. He is the God-made-man through incarnation who poured out His blood on the cross to share with us His Divine Life. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have been converted from enemies of God into children of God and have been given the right to say: “Our Father in Heaven”.
Discovering that Jesus Christ is our only treasure, the One of great price, we, Christians and children of God, have to act towards the possession of such treasure. Indeed, through baptism we belong to Christ and Christ dwells in our heart. On the other hand, because of our weaknesses and human frailties, we commit sins that separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. There is then a constant need for us to repent and to sacrifice our likes, ambitions, and seeming treasures just to see to it that only Jesus Christ is the One of great value in our lives.
Greed is the vice that leads the farmer to the loss of the mine of diamonds. Self-emptying is the virtue that leads us to encounter the One of great value. If, like the farmer in the anecdote of the Acres of Diamonds, we give in to our selfish desires and motivations, then we will forever lose the real treasure. On the other hand, if we humble ourselves, detach us from material possessions, and let God control our lives, then we will discover that the real treasure of great value is right there within us, Jesus Christ who lives in us and who constantly unites us to God, the source and fullness of life.