The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Think about it.  God comes to you in a dream and says that you can have anything you want—just one thing, though.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  What would you ask for?  What is that one thing you’d give anything to have?

God already knew what Solomon was going to ask for; he already knew that what Solomon wanted was something that would be good for Solomon to have.  Solomon asks for a wise and understanding heart so that he could more readily lead the people God had called him to lead.  And so God grants his servant’s request: he gives him so wise and understanding a heart that there was never anyone as wise as Solomon, before or since.

Solomon’s answer to God’s question told us what was of most importance to Solomon. In today’s Gospel, we are asked to answer that same question. Jesus speaks, as he has been for a few Sundays now, of what the kingdom of heaven is like. A couple of weeks ago, the kingdom was like seed that was scattered and sown. Some fell on rocks, some among weeds, but some on the good soil that yielded more than anyone had a right to hope for. The kingdom of God is something like that: the more we nurture and cultivate our life with God, the more we benefit ourselves and others. Last Sunday, the kingdom was again like seed, which was carefully planted, but was interrupted by someone planting weeds in among the wheat. The landowner had the harvesters sort it all out at harvest time. The kingdom of God is something like that: the good and the bad will all be sorted out in due time.

Today the kingdom is like buried treasure or the pearl of great price.  The treasure is so great that when it is found, the treasure-hunter sells everything he has to buy the field.  The pearl is so wonderful that the merchant gives everything he has to buy it.  Can you imagine their joy?  What they have found is so wonderful that they give up everything to possess it.  Well, Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is like that.

But not just like that, right?  Because we know that worldly goods can never hold a candle to the riches of the Kingdom of heaven.  The success in our careers is nice, the nice things we have in our homes give us some pleasure, our accomplishments may even give us some pride.  But all of these pale in the face of the joy of the Kingdom.

And so we have the invitation today.  We don’t have to look, because we have found the great treasure, the pearl of great price.  We have come here today to worship and to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, really present for those here in church, and at least spiritually for those at home.  There is nothing better on the face of the whole earth.  We know where to find that which is ultimately valuable.  But the fact is that we can come and go from this holy place today and still not have what’s truly worthwhile.  Because in order to receive it, we have to give up everything.  We have to sell everything and buy the field in order to have that pearl of great price.

That might mean walking away from a business deal that is profitable but has consequences for the poor or the environment.  Or perhaps it means giving up a relationship that is destructive.  We may have to give up a leisure pursuit that is enjoyable but separates us from family and friends.  We have to make choices, changes and decisions that amount to selling everything in order to make room for something that is of ultimate importance: that pearl of great price which is the Kingdom of heaven itself.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word leaves us with some very important questions.  What is the pearl of great price for us?  What is the thing for which we would give up everything else?  How important is it for us to enter the Kingdom of heaven?  What is it that we must give up in order to get there?  Our prayer today is that we would be strengthened by the Word of God and nourished by the Eucharist so that we would have the courage to sell everything for the Kingdom of heaven, that pearl of ultimately great price.

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