SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - YEAR A
After being nearly snowbound for two weeks, a Seattle
man departed for his vacation in Miami Beach, where he was to meet
his wife the next day at the conclusion of her business trip to
Minneapolis. They were looking forward to pleasant weather and a
nice time together. Unfortunately, there was some sort of mix up
at the boarding gate, and the man was told he would have to wait
for a later flight. He tried to appeal to a supervisor but was told
the airline was not responsible for the problem and it would do
no good to complain.
Upon arrival at the hotel the next day, he discovered
that Miami Beach was having a heat wave, and its weather was almost
as uncomfortably hot as Seattle's was cold. The desk clerk gave
him a message that his wife would arrive as planned. He could hardly
wait to get to the pool area to cool off, and quickly sent his wife
an e-mail, but due to his haste, he made an error in the e-mail
His message therefore arrived at the home of an
elderly preacher's wife whose even older husband had died only the
When the grieving widow opened her e-mail, she
took one look at the monitor, let out an anguished scream, and fell
to the floor dead. Her family rushed to her room where they saw
this message on the screen:
Departed yesterday as you know.
Just now got checked in.
Some confusion at the gate.
Appeal was denied.
Received confirmation of your arrival tomorrow.
Your loving husband.
P.S. Things are not as we thought. You're going to be surprised
at how hot it is down here.
Old-time missioners used to have a field day with
today's gospel, or at least with part of it. While they may have
liked the passages that suggested that heaven was like
a treasure in a field or like a pearl of great price,
they told us that hell was a furnace of fire where there
was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Some of those preachers seemed to know an awful
lot about hell! It's as though they were travel writers who had
visited the place several times just to warn us about what to expect
when we got there. And do you remember how easy it was to get in?
Many of us thought we had a first class ticket in our pocket most
of the time.
Once, during a parish mission, where the visiting
priest had given us an excruciatingly detailed description of hell,
he told us, ‘You could be dipping your hand in the holy water font
as you leave the Church tonight and be struck down dead and sent
to hell for eternity!' At the end of that session my cousin stood
by the holy water font and watched everyone else dip their hand
in, saying as they did, ‘After you, after you.' She wasn't taking
All this is not to underestimate the reality of
hell. If we believe in heaven and free will, it has to be logically
true that hell exists and that, consistent with some people's free,
knowing and serious rejection of God and of love all their lives,
these choices will destine decisions made for, and by, them in the
next world as well.
There are two major differences, however, between
how we used to speak about heaven and hell and what we say now.
Just as we know the treasure hidden in the field or the pearl of
great price are metaphors for heaven, rich and wonderful ones at
that, they remain images that enable us to grasp an unimaginable
concept. So it is with hell. How can we imagine life without love
and God? We have learnt that our guidebook regarding hell needs
to be more circumscribed about what that destination or state of
being holds. All we can confidently say is that hell is non-God.
The second change is that we are more careful about
being so confident in regard to who is going there. Jesus tells
us that God wants all humanity to be saved. We can't take that seriously
and then have people slip into hell for a small infringement of
If we read today's Gospel in a different way it
can be a commentary on what God has done for us. Humanity can be
seen as the treasure in the field that God has sold everything to
own. We are the pearl of great price that God has moved heaven and
earth to possess and we are the fish caught up in the net of God's
Our God is the one who became one like us, in Jesus
the Lord, so that we might know, love and serve him. That's what
today's Gospel is all about.
Jesus reminds his disciples that in glimpsing the
things of heaven they have to be like the master of a household.
That's a rich image. In Jesus' day such a person would have provided
protection, love, security and justice for all.
God has given us free will and treasures, both
new and old, to help us protect each other, love each other, feel
secure in the truth and act justly. But we need to know that the
choices we make in regard to these things have implications for
how we live now and in the life to come.
the people of St Francis Xavier - St Clare parish, seek to live
lives, celebrating God’s presence & our faith values
through worship, outreach, service, justice & hospitality.
our Vision Statement
Next meeting: 7 August 2014
©Creative Ministry Resources Pty Ltd
READINGS THIS WEEK
1 Kgs 3:5.7-12
Solomon is granted an understanding heart.
God makes all things work for the good of those who love him.
Jesus describes the kingdom through images.