A reflection for the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Julia Erdlen reflects on the readings for July 30, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year A):

1 Kings 3:5, 7 – 12
Psalms 119:57, 72, 76 – 77, 127 – 128, 129 – 130
Romans 8:28 – 30
Matthew 13:44 – 52

Reflection: Building the kingdom takes work

When I was a kid, my family would have a yearly end-of-summer scavenger hunt. My uncles would take zoomed in photos of flowers, fences, and lawn ornaments, and send all the rest of us on a race to find and match the pictures on our handout to the objects in the yard. We all had to look closely at objects we might otherwise have walked right by, never noticing a particular detail on a yard sign my uncle had painted, or what the spigot for the hose actually looked like. We would be as sneaky as we could, and not let on to anyone else where we found a particularly tricky hidden treasure.  The joy of a gaggle of kids (and adults) in this chaotic contest is one of my absolute favorite family memories.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells us the stories of several people who rejoice when they find what was hidden. These characters take active roles when searching for lost or previously unknown valuables: finding the treasure, searching for the pearl, hauling in the fish. They do not accidentally stumble upon what they value, but must go searching. Indeed, if everything they wanted were in plain sight, I don’t think their joy at discovering it would have been as great. None of them knows for sure that they will find a treasure, a perfect pearl, or a great catch of fish, but they start searching anyway.

We seek and gather in, dig and find. We don’t just stumble across the kingdom of heaven. It takes work to uncover buried treasure. Building up the kingdom on earth is not a quick and easy process, but a continual searching and striving to live out the values modeled for us by Jesus in the gospels. Paul invites us to be conformed to the image of Christ, but that is not something we merely stumble into. We search and dig, to uncover our best and most Christ-like selves.


And there we find joy! We celebrate uncovering the kingdom, seeking our truest selves, and unlike the kids on the cheerfully competitive scavenger hunts of my childhood, we get to do this together. We seek out the kingdom together, in community. The Christian life is not a journey to be undertaken alone, but a scavenger hunt done with a team, to help guide us in the right direction and point out what we might have otherwise missed.

About the author

Julia Erdlen

Julia Erdlen serves as a college campus minister and hospital chaplain in St. Louis, Missouri.

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