17th Sunday of the Year

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The Pearl of Great Price by Daniel Bonnell

The sermon for today is by Alan.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the last of the parables Jesus told in what is sometimes called the Sermon on the Beach. Jesus came down to the Sea of Galilee, and he attracted such a great crowd that the disciples decided to row him out in a boat so that all the people could see him. And, as we have heard in the Gospels these last weeks, he told them some of his most famous parables – the parables of the Sower, the Wheat and the Tares – and, today, several short parables of the Kingdom. 

So today, first, Jesus tells the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the smallest of all seeds, yet which grows into the largest of bushes, even up to the size of a tree. Then the Parable of the Yeast, where the bakerwoman takes a small piece of yeast, and mixes it into 3 measures of flour – which was about fifty pounds weight – enough to make a hundred loaves or more.  Next he compares the Kingdom to a Treasure, hidden in a field, and to a Pearl of Great Price, the largest and most beautiful ever seen, and in both cases, the merchant concerned is willing to risk all his money, even sell everything he has – to gain entry to the Kingdom.

Then, in the Parable of the Fishermen, who go out into the lake, put out their nets, and bring back a good catch, but when they get back, they still sort through the fish, keeping the good ones, and throwing back the bad. Here Jesus is telling us that God’s Kingdom is a place of salvation, where, if we follow him and his commandments, loving one another, doing good, not harm, to our neighbours, spreading God’s love through the world, even among those who may try to harm us – we can be saved.

Finally, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them “Have you understood all this?”. Well, we may reply at this point, we have understood these last few parables more easily than the ones about the technicalities of sowing and harvesting, since we’re not really part of a farming community here in Finsbury Park. But I want to go back to the beginning of this chapter, and to ask, along with the disciples: Why do you speak in parables?”. Jesus answers with a quotation from Isaiah: “You listen but do not understand, you look, but do not perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and they have shut their eyes”.

Doesn’t that sound a bit like our generation in the 20th (er – sorry 21st) century? Most of us in this congregation may not be really poor, but we have enough, and more – TV and computers, clothes and jewellery, comfortable furniture and knick-knacks round our rooms. Have we shut our eyes?

But then Jesus goes on to say more comforting words to the disciples, to us, and to those gathered around on the beach who do understand, whose eyes are open and see. To all of us, the doors of the Kingdom are open, if only we will do what it takes to enter those doors: visit the sick and the housebound, comfort those who mourn or are frightened, especially in times like these, feed the hungry, who are lining up outside our doors here at Mass as they wait for their hot meal at the Soup Kitchen. In other words – those doors are open to all who love their neighbour as Jesus loves us.