The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You’ve probably heard me say that these summer weeks of Ordinary Time give us a wonderful look at how to live the Christian Life.  I always say that the Scriptures give us a kind of “Discipleship Toolbox” that helps us to know what we are supposed to be about and how we are to live the Gospel.  The tool with which we are presented this week is pretty obviously the tool of wisdom.  It’s an important tool and it’s not all that easy to attain.  Wisdom is that wonderful virtue that is kind of like knowledge, but more about knowing what is right and wrong.

So think about it, God comes to you in a dream and says you can have anything you want; all you have to do is ask.  Ever since I can remember hearing that reading as a young boy, I have wondered how I would have answered if I had been in Solomon’s place.  It’s a question that I think is worthwhile for all of us to meditate on, because it says a lot about who we are and what is most important to us.

Clearly, Solomon already had what he was looking for, because he was wise enough to ask for it.  He was already wise enough to seek God and fear God and rely on God, and so God rewards him with so much wisdom, that his very name becomes synonymous with that great virtue.  And it’s wisdom that is in motion in today’s Gospel.

Over the past few Sundays, Jesus has taken time to tell us what the kingdom of God 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 too.  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.

This week we have more images of what the kingdom is like.  It’s like the pearl of great price or the buried treasure.  In both cases, the one finding that pearl or treasure sell everything they have to obtain it.  In both cases, the treasure seeker is wise enough to see the value of what they are looking at, and they give everything to have it.  The kingdom of God is like that.  It’s worth giving everything to have.

But it does take some wisdom to recognize the pearl of great price.  Because lots of things out there are shiny and nice and tempting.  But they don’t lead to everlasting happiness.  And it takes wisdom to go for that pearl when you find it.  Because it costs something, well, everything really.  Just like the people in the Gospel sold everything they had to buy the field with the buried treasure and the pearl of great price, so we will be required to give everything to obtain the kingdom of God.

That might mean walking away from a business deal that is profitable but has bad consequences for other people.  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.

So think about it.  God gives you the opportunity to obtain anything you want.  What do you ask for?  What is it that you’d give everything to have?