Jesus Our Shepherd
Matthew 13:44-52
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for 24 July 2005
Rev. Frank Baiocchi

Samuel was a Jewish boy who was doing very poorly in math class. His parents had tried everything: tutors, flash cards, specialized learning programs – anything they could think of. Finally, as a last resort, they enrolled Samuel in a local Catholic school.

When Samuel came home after his first day there, he had a serious look on his face. He didn’t even say hello to his mother. Instead he ran straight to his room to study. His parents were amazed. After the family supper, Samuel immediately hurried back to his room to study some more.

This continued for a number of days. Never had Samuel studied so hard or taken math so seriously. Finally the day arrived when Samuel brought home his report card and quietly laid it on the kitchen table. Again he went to his room to study. His parents opened it to discover their son had earned an “A” in math!

They could no longer hold their curiosity so they went to his room and asked: “Samuel, how did you earn this ‘A’? Was it the nuns? The discipline? The textbook? The uniforms?” Samuel looked at them and shook his head “No!” “Then what was it?” the parents insisted. Samuel replied earnestly, “Well on the first day of class I knew they weren’t fooling around when I saw that guy on the front wall nailed to the plus sign!”

That Guy on the front wall nailed to the plus sign is what our faith is all about. It’s not about dogmas or creeds or papal pronouncements; it’s not about rules or regulations or codes of canon law. It’s about having faith and trust in that Man on the plus sign. He is our treasure, buried and now resurrected, our “pearl of great price”, as today’s Gospel affirms.

At our baptism each of us was pledged by our parents to become Jesus’ disciple. But for most of us that was a long time ago. So it’s up to each of us to renew that pledge each and every day and make it a reality. Why? Because becoming a disciple of Jesus is a process, not a single event. It takes energy. It takes effort. It takes patience. It takes an entire lifetime.

“Do you understand these things?” Jesus asks his disciples in today’s Gospel. They said “yes” but they really didn’t as we found out later. This morning Jesus asks each of us that very same question: “Do you understand these things?” How shall we answer him? How shall we answer that Guy nailed to the plus sign?