Homily at the Holy Well of Tobernalt, Sligo

Homily at the Holy Well of Tobernalt, Sligo
Bishop Kevin Doran
Sunday 27th July 2014

One of the proverbs I heard quite a lot when I was growing up was “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” The idea was that, if you dropped the basket, all the eggs would break and there would be nothing left. So we were encouraged to keep our options open, when it came to choosing friends, or choosing subjects for the Leaving Cert. It’s good advice up to a point, but “leaving your options open” can also mean never making a commitment to anything.

Today, as he often does, Jesus turns everything upside down; he tells us that if we want to be part of the kingdom of heaven, we have to be prepared to put all our eggs in one basket. That is the meaning of the parable about the man who found a treasure in a field. He carefully covered it up again and then went and sold everything he had to buy the field. There was a risk involved, of course. Someone else could have found it and taken it away. It might have turned out not to be as valuable as he thought in the first place.

To make any commitment requires courage AND wisdom; wisdom to discern what is really worthy of our commitment; courage to invest what is required to make it work.

Solomon became king of Israel as a young man, after the death of his father David. He could have continued where his father left off, doing the same old things, but he did not. When he is invited by God to pray form whatever he wants, he doesn’t pray for anything for himself; not power or wealth, but for wisdom to govern his people well. He was ready to let go of everything else as long as he could achieve what would be good for the people. That was his buried treasure.

Somebody once said that, if you keep doing the same things in the same old way, it is foolish to expect the results to be different. That’s why (to use the words of the Gospel today) “The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who takes out of his storehouse things both old and new.” Today we are part of an ancient tradition going right back to the time of Patrick. The truth doesn’t change but the world around us is changing all the time; so we need to be always finding new ways to bear witness to the age old truth of God’s love. Solomon’s prayer for wisdom is a good prayer for a new bishop.

This morning I find myself thinking of those who have the responsibility for government in the land where Solomon once was king. They have built walls between them and launched missiles at one another for sixty years. Generations of civilians have died or been displaced. Nothing has been changed or improved as a result. Why should we imagine that anything will change now, unless political leaders are somehow given the wisdom and the courage to commit to something new; something that brings life rather than death? So I invite you to remember them in a special way this morning that they may have wisdom to discern good and evil.

Our Scripture readings, however, are not just about other people, in other places, at other times in history. There are many broken things and broken people in our own society. We too have built walls where we should have built bridges. We are no strangers to violence and fear, even if it is on a smaller scale. One option for us, of course, is to keep our heads down and hope for the best.

The better option, even if it requires a much greater commitment, is to put all our resources into the “pearl of great price”. That’s how Jesus describes the Kingdom of God – which is not a place. It is a way of life dedicated to justice, truth and peace and to a love of others, which has its roots in God’s love for all of us.

There are many, of course, who say that total commitment is too difficult; that it is no longer realistic to expect people to be faithful to one another for life. They say the same about priesthood, asking how anyone could be expected to take it on these days. There is no life worth living that doesn’t involve some kind of sacrificed, but sacrifices are possible as long as we keep our eyes fixed on the treasure hidden in the field. As Jesus said to his disciples “where your treasure is, there your heart will be”.

Today we take Solomon’s prayer and make it our own, that we may have wisdom to discern between good and evil and that we may have courage to choose what is good, not just good for ourselves but for this whole people of which we are a part.