Readings: First Kings 3:5, 7-12; Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:28-30; Gospel of Saint Matthew 13:44-52
As we probably can all attest, our contemporary culture teaches us to seek the good life, at whatever the cost, literally. More often than not, today “happiness” is defined in terms of that which in fact ultimately fades away: health, wealth and beauty, things which are fleeting and deified beyond their worth. “You Can’t Take it With You” was the name of a popular play from the 1930’s—a phrase that sums up well the reality of life, of the rich and famous, the poor and obscure, of you and me. There comes a moment in life, at the end, when we must let go of all, and let God take over entirely, without fear.
Doing such, and preparing for the inevitable now, doesn’t mean settling for inadequate food, shelter and clothing or despising our earthly existence. On the other hand, to make material things the sum total of life is to miss the boat of real life and happiness, to which God calls us. Christ put it in terms of having life “in abundance,” that is, eternal life with our creator and all the angels and saints.
In stark contrast to hedonistic materialism, then, is the ideal put forth in the Scriptures today; namely, seeking spiritual wisdom, which cannot be bought with money, and acquiring God’s kingdom, which has no price tag, other than an attentive heart and a docile spirit to really hear and put into practice God’s word.
King Solomon is praised in the first reading at Mass today for choosing something that will last—wisdom–rather than fleeting things or earthly goods. Solomon stands as a model in the Hebrew Scriptures of “being on the right track,” as we might put it today. Solomon is seen as knowing what is really needed for life’s journey: wisdom, an understanding heart, which in fact God bestows.
This doesn’t negate the importance of our free will and the choices we make in response to God’s action, put in terms of “right living”: that is, doing good to others, rendering worship to the God of heaven and earth, setting one’s heart on spiritual rather than material riches.
Jesus in the Christian dispensation is the one who brings to all the fullness of life, something even King Solomon didn’t have knowledge of; namely, eternal life in heaven. Jesus offers this to those who are willing to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ,” as our Holy Father Saint Benedict put it, borrowing a phrase from Saint Cyprian of Carthage (De orat. dom. 15).
The heart of the Christian message is the Good News that God has stooped down to us in order to raise us up to Him. No one is forced to accept this great gift, of course; otherwise it would not be a gift, but an imposition. But to those who accept the gift, there is a fundamental approach to everything as “being on loan,” from the God who made us.
With this in mind, we realize we must render an account of our life to our Maker at the end of life’s journey. How have I spent my time and energy on earth, I will be asked? How have I treated others and even myself? Have I spent myself in loving service of others as Jesus taught, or made others the object of my desires; have I put myself at the center of the universe, treading under foot all those in my path?
These are tough questions, but Jesus is very interested that we not be discouraged but comprehend the point of life, and sooner than later! Thanks be to God Holy Mother Church is at our side to walk us through “the long and winding road,” as it has been called, of life.
In the Church and her Sacraments we find the action of God’s grace at work in our lives, even when we stray, offering rest for our weariness and spiritual food and drink for our hungry and thirsty hearts.
We gather regularly, then, at God’s altar in church, to celebrate the Eucharist, to ponder the proper perspective Jesus came to reveal: that our hearts be totally set on the riches that cannot fade or be taken away, on the things that last into life eternal.
But who of us can consistently choose for the things of God? We may go astray seeking that which is not of God and only eventually come to our senses about the really important values put before us.
Others on earth, we sometimes feel, may not seem to be getting the message of God, but we pray for them, that they and we may be enlightened. We support all those we can in their search for the things that are above, where Christ is seated at Gods right hand. And we call on God to help us in our weakness.
May each of us be committed to the Good News Jesus boldly proclaims in the Gospel: the Kingdom of God should be zealously pursued like a treasure, or a pearl of great price. Jesus is saying we have the capacity and all that it takes to possess the indescribable riches of God’s Kingdom, and they will never be taken from us. “Come to the fountain of Life and drink the water that will quench your thirst,” we should hear the Lord saying to us.
Saint Paul in the second reading at Mass today expresses the conviction that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called to possess that which ultimately can satisfy. In other words, we must trust in God’s providential care for the human race, even when we cannot make sense of what goes on around us or within us.
May God help us to choose as wisely as Solomon of old!
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB