Spiritual Warfare Week 6: Make a Smart Investment

(July 30, 2017)

Message: Now is the time to make a smart investment.

Today's Gospel continues a theme we saw last week: the great separation. Jesus described a harvest where angels first pluck up the useless plants. These weeds they bundle for burning. Then they gather the valuable plants - the wheat - for God's joyful harvest.

We see today a different image - a net that hauls in both marketable fish and scrap fish. The two kinds swim side by side: salmon, halibut and flounders along with mud sharks, rat fish and bullhead. God will eventually sort them out. Not my job. Not your job. We can relax - the separation belongs to God and his angels.

Even in the church the good and bad swim side by side. Some spend time upset about bad priests, bad Catholics and bad pastors. With the internet and the 24-hour news cycle we hear many scandals. I'm saddened by those reports but the best I can do is pray and remember I have my own sins. Not my job to uproot bad weeds.

It's different of course if you witness an abuse. We have an obligation to report any serious abuse.* But regarding scandals where you or I have no direct connection, we have to take a deep breath, pray and say, not my job.

So if separating good fish from bad is not my job, what is? Jesus tells us: Make a smart investment.

Jesus illustrates this by telling about a man who stumbles upon treasure buried in a field. Suppose someone in Gold Bar discovers the spot where an old mining company hid gold for safe keeping. It's a fabulous fortune but the mine owner dies. His associates search but they have no idea where he buried it. The treasure lays there over a century until you stumble on it.

Now it happens that a developer has subdivided the land. You rush to find if anyone has purchased the lot. They haven't. Wouldn't you hock your computer, your car, anything you own, so you can make a down payment on that lot?

Well, Jesus is asking us to do something similar: to risk all, to invest everything to obtain the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom has a hidden treasure with all the wealth of the universe. To put it plainly the treasure is nothing more - and nothing less - than Jesus himself.

Now's the time. Just like that buried treasure in Gold Bar, tomorrow might be too late. Now's the time to make a smart investment.

When we went to World Youth Day in 2011, many said their favorite place was Assisi. The city fascinates young people not so much for being a gorgeous medieval town but because of what happened there. At the beginning of the 13th Century, a young man gave away everything including the clothes off his back to dedicate himself to Jesus. His father reacted furiously. After all, the dad worked hard - travelling to France and other countries - looking for profitable investments in cloth and other fine goods. He didn't realize his son made the sharpest investment. You know who I mean. Our current pope took his name from him - Francis of Assisi.

Young people identify with St. Francis because youth is a time of decision. Pope John Paul said: "The decisions you make now, the friendships you form, the values you choose to live by, the goals you set for yourselves these will shape your personal future and have an impact on the future of society." Jesus offers young people the opportunity to make a great investment. To risk all to gain hidden treasure.

But today's Gospel is not only for youth. For those of us who have made our basic life choice, Jesus also wants us to make an investment. We call it Stewardship: Joyfully investing our time, our abilities, our financial resources in the kingdom of God.

I remind you, we are in a spiritual war. Jesus' parables about wheat and weeds, good fish and bad fish assure us that the final victory belongs to God. When that day comes, I want you and me to be on the winning side. Now is the time to make a smart investment. Like the man who discovers a hidden treasure, "out of joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Amen.


*Fortunately an ordinary Catholic will not often be confronted with something so horrendous. For example, regarding clergy sexual abuse of a minor, in our archdiocese we have not had a new case since 1987. Older cases of course have surfaced but no new ones since 1987. I can be corrected on this but it seems to me Archbishop Hunthausen put us on a good trajectory when he confronted this issue in the mid eighties.

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From Archives (for Seventeenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Life in the Spirit Week 4
2011: Hidden Treasure
2008: All Things Work for Good
2005: The Pearl of Great Price
2002: Either/Or
1999: What is Heaven?

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