1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46
Have you ever come across something that you just had to have? When I visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati last summer, there was a print for sale of a painting depicting the experience of slavery. It is a powerful painting, but the only prints that were for sale measured 2 feet by 3 feet. I had already filled up the wall space in my office, and I was close to doing the same thing in my bedroom, but I wanted the print, so I decided to get it anyway, and I made room for it on my wall.
If you’ve had a similar experience, both you and I need to listen to Jesus in the Gospel reading for Sunday (Matthew 13:44-52): "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." As much as I desired that print, or as we have desired certain things in our lives, do we want the kingdom?
Would we be willing to "sell all that we have," or "go all out," for the kingdom? Would following Jesus and doing God’s will be the most important things in our lives? Those are the kinds of questions these parables pose to us. There are many times when we find ourselves single-minded in pursuit of money or a job or a career, or even a spouse. But is it possible to be that single-minded in pursuit of holiness? Is that even the smart thing to do? After all, the other things we pursue can be seen and heard and felt. Holiness can seem a bit abstract.
In our first reading from 1 Kings (3:5, 7-12), Solomon, having succeeded his father David as king, asks God for wisdom and understanding so that he can govern the people well. God is pleased with such a request, and grants his wish. And Solomon is known far and wide for the wisdom he possesses. But if you read further into 1 Kings, you’ll find that Solomon doesn’t always use the gift he’s been given. He desires other things, winds up disobeying God, and his wisdom seems to go out the window. To put ourselves totally at the disposal of God, knowing His incredible love for us, is real wisdom, as irrational as it may seem. We are to put everything on the line for the "kingdom of heaven."
Now, how can we know that what we’re striving for is truly about the kingdom? Sometimes the thing to do seems to stand fast in our position, no matter what other people think. At other times, listening and dialogue seem best (The debt ceiling debate might be an example). Prayer and spiritual direction can help greatly in discerning where we need to put our energies. But I think there are some things we can consider as we move along in our lives. If our single-mindedness leads us to violence, or condemnation of others, it probably is not of the kingdom. But if it leads to reconciliation, to peace and justice, to love of God and love of neighbor, then I think it probably is following the promptings of the Spirit.
The single-mindedness Jesus calls for requires grace from God. Our faith tells us that God freely bestows that grace upon us. As St. Paul says in our reading from Romans (8:28-30): "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." We know where our real treasure lies – in the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ, culminating in eternal life. It is there for us to have. How bad do we want it?
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.