July 30, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
July 30, 2017
Being a farmer in first century Palestine was not easy. There was a constant struggle to make ends meet. Starvation was always around the corner. So when Nathaniel heard that his grandfather had died, and left him a plot of land, he was ecstatic. Perhaps he could plant some wheat on that land, and gain some security for his family. But when he went to look at the land his heart sank. It was small, very rocky, without water, and without shade. Nothing would grow on this land. It could not even support a few weeds for sheep to graze. Nathaniel’s inheritance was worthless. He quickly decided to sell the land, if he could. But even though he set the price low, very low, no one was interested. It had been on the market now for five years without a single offer. Then one day a neighbor of Nathaniel’s came to his house. He was excited and plopped down the full asking price. “Nathaniel,” he said, “I want to buy that field of yours.” “Of course,” said Nathaniel. He quickly signed over the deed. As his neighbor left, Nathaniel counted his money. He knew that he was fortunate to sell the land. But he couldn’t help but wonder why would anyone pay good money for this barren piece of real estate. He went out to look at the land one last time. It was the same that it had always been. “Yes,” he said, “I’m fortunate to get rid of it.” But then he wondered, “Is there something I’m missing, something about this land I do not know?”
Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel tells us what Nathaniel didn’t know. There was a treasure buried in that field, a treasure that gave the land immense value. Jesus gives us this parable to tell us that there is a treasure hidden in our lives and in our world. And that treasure is the treasure of God’s grace. Jesus wants us to believe that in every person and in every circumstance God is present, often in a hidden way, but active and working to bring about what is just and good.
Of course it takes faith to believe that God is active and working in the difficult situations of our lives. When we look at the rancor and partisanship that characterizes Washington or Columbus, it is easy for us to conclude that the people we have elected to serve us have become dysfunctional. Jesus’ parable tells us that hidden in that dysfunction God is still active, still moving minds and hearts, so that a situation that seems barren might in fact bear some fruit.
You might know a friend or a family member that others have written off because of the mistakes they made or the attitudes they carry. Jesus’ teaching tells us that there is a treasure in that person, the treasure of God’s love that is continually active, moving the person towards change and growth. So that a life that seems without value might eventually be able to claim its true worth.
You might have received a difficult medical diagnosis, and you know you are facing months of pain and treatments. The gospel that we believe tells us that buried in that pain God is still present, giving you courage to move forward, making you thankful for the people who love and support you.
Faith makes a difference. Faith changes things. People and circumstances that seem bleak and hopeless look different to those who believe that God is active and present in our lives. A barren field that no one would buy becomes a valued property, when we understand that the treasure of God’s grace is hidden within it.