17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Trespassers in the Kingdom
(Adults, begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child, unless the child is a very fluent reader.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus is still telling parables! He knows that people enjoy listening to parables--they are stories that are both interesting and somewhat strange. They help us consider the Kingdom of God and what it could be like.
“The kingdom of God 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.”
The Kingdom of God is like treasure? Well, that gets our attention! Who wouldn't want some of that?! But is that all that Jesus wants us to know? Let's look a little more closely.
The kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field
It is important for us to know that in Jesus' time, there weren't any banks to keep treasure safe. So it would not be unusual for someone to bury his or her money and valuables in the ground in order to keep them safe from people invading the land.
which someone found and hid
Now we are getting to the interesting part. This person who finds the hidden treasure does not own the field. We know this because he buys the field at the end of the parable. So what was that person doing when he found the buried treasure? Doesn't this mean that he was digging in a field that does not belong to him? What do we call someone who is on property that does not belong to them?
Hey, is that fair? Isn't this about the Kingdom of God? Is it fair that a trespasser gets to find the treasure?
I imagine that trespasser discovering the treasure while he is sneakily digging in the field. I imagine him looking around to see if anyone has noticed that he has made a discovery. I imagine him giggling with wicked glee.
The trespasser quickly covers the treasure with dirt. He is careful to hide it again! Why does he do that? What does he know?
The trespasser must know how valuable the treasure is. He must also know that it does not belong to him. But he knows that he wants it.
Everything he knows is true.
He must also think that if he shows the treasure to the owner of the field, the owner will not let him keep it. If he keeps the treasure a secret, maybe he can buy the field cheap. I wonder if this is true, too. He hides the treasure again, makes a plan, and buys the field.
This is what the kingdom of God is like? The kingdom of God is like a trespasser who discovers treasure and tricks the owner into selling the field for cheap?
I think we are missing something here. Wouldn't the owner of the field know that his treasure was buried there? How could he forget?! So although he knows his treasure is in that field, he sells it anyway. We could say, he lets the trespasser have the treasure in the field. He freely gives it to him.
Who could the owner of the field be?
Who gives freely to trespassers? Who gives freely to people who have been where they should not be? Who gives freely to people who have done what they should not do?
Freely gives? That sounds a lot like someone who forgives. Do we know someone who forgives trespassers? Don't we pray, "forgive us our trespasses"?
Remember how we thought it might not be fair that this trespasser gets to find the hidden treasure? Maybe this is not a parable about fairness. Thank God trespassers may find the treasure!
One more thing we can notice. When I imagined the trespasser finding the treasure, I imagined him giggling with wicked glee. But Jesus says,
then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has
Joy is not wicked glee. Joy is pure. Joy is perfect. Joy bubbles over. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Finding the treasure changes the trespasser. Filled with joy, he will never be the same.