Cycle A 17th Sunday inOrdinary Time

 1 Kgs. 3:5-12; Rom. 8:28-30; Mt. 13:44-52

Dear brothers and sisters,

In today's Gospel, Jesus presents us with three profound parables about the kingdom of heaven.

 'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

One classic literary character who lived a life of material wealth and worldly pleasures before turning to God is Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' novella, "A Christmas Carol."

Ebenezer Scrooge was a miserly and cold-hearted old man who cared only about money and financial success. He hoarded his wealth, refusing to help those in need and lacking compassion for the poor. His life revolved around counting his coins and dismissing any notion of generosity or charity. Scrooge's obsession with wealth left him isolated and bitter, pushing away even those who cared about him.

As the story unfolds on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who is burdened with heavy chains forged from his own greed and selfishness in life. Marley warns Scrooge of the impending visitation of three spirits who will show him the error of his ways.

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge on a journey through his own history. Scrooge witnesses scenes from his childhood, including moments of joy and love with his younger sister, Fan, and their kind-hearted employer, Mr. Fezziwig. He also revisits the time when he was engaged to Belle, a woman he deeply loved, but his growing obsession with wealth ultimately drove her away.

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, shows Scrooge the joyous celebrations of Christmas happening all around him, even among the poorest families. Scrooge sees the Cratchit family, including the sickly Tiny Tim, who despite their hardships, find happiness in their love for one another. This glimpse of genuine love and selflessness touches Scrooge's heart.

Finally, the third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (or the Ghost of Christmas Future), reveals a grim and lonely future for Scrooge. He witnesses his own death, and the people around him show no remorse, only seeking to profit from his demise. Scrooge realizes that his life's legacy will be one of greed and indifference, leaving no positive impact on the world or anyone around him.

Confronted with the consequences of his choices, Scrooge is overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow. He pleads with the spirit for a chance to change his ways and promises to embrace a life of compassion and generosity.

Awakening on Christmas morning, Scrooge is filled with newfound joy and gratitude for the gift of redemption. He immediately sets out to make amends for his past actions. He donates money to charity, assists the poor, and becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, ensuring the boy receives the medical care he needs.

From that day on, Scrooge lives a transformed life, embodying the true spirit of Christmas by spreading love, kindness, and generosity. His heart is open to the

One historical figure who fits this description is St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Augustine was a renowned philosopher, theologian, and bishop in the early Christian Church. In his early life, he pursued material wealth and worldly pleasures, but through a profound spiritual conversion, he turned to God and became one of the most influential Christian thinkers in history.

During his youth, Augustine lived a life of indulgence and hedonism. When he moved to Milan he encountered the bishop Ambrose. There Augustine had a life-changing encounter with God. One day, he was sitting in a garden, tormented by his inner struggles. He heard the voice of a child singing, "Take up and read.” He took this as a divine message and opened the nearby Bible, randomly reading a passage from the letters of St. Paul. The words he read touched his soul deeply and felt like a direct message from God, urging him to abandon his old ways and embrace a life of faith and virtue. In response to this spiritual revelation, Augustine underwent a profound conversion.

Again, we have the inspiring story of St. Francis of Assisi, who was born into wealth but gave it all up to embrace a life of poverty and simplicity. St. Francis found the treasure of heaven in his complete surrender to God's will, finding joy in serving the poor and marginalized.

Similarly, in recent times we had Mother Teresa, whose selfless devotion to the poor in Calcutta demonstrated the boundless love of God. Her life exemplified the parable's lesson – the kingdom of heaven is worth more than all the treasures of this world combined.

Brothers and sisters, The  character Ebenezer Scrooge, St Augustine, St Francis, Mother Theresa and numerous  saints and holy men absorbed the teaching of these  parables  to seek the kingdom of heaven above all else. We too must be ready to let go of anything that hinders our relationship with God. The journey may not be easy, but we have the wisdom and example of the Bible and the lives of the saints to guide us.

Let us reflect on our lives and discern what worldly attachments we need to release. May we emulate the prodigal son's courage to return to our Heavenly Father. No matter how far we may have wandered. Remember, the treasure of heaven is within our reach, waiting to fill our hearts with the true joy and peace that surpass all understanding.

Let us pray for the grace to seek the kingdom of heaven above all else and live a life worthy of the eternal treasure that awaits us.