17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A


     As a priest, I am blessed to be invited into people’s lives at some of their most difficult moments. As I meet with people from all walks of life, confronting every life situation imaginable, I find myself often receiving way more than I give. Without fail, every time someone invites me into their life, I walk away with something to ponder in my own life. Every night before I go to bed, I spend sometime praying about the many insights that came from my encounters that day and then I hit the reset button and fall asleep only to wake up to a new day in the morning. Yet, every now and then, something from one of these encounters sticks with me and challenges me for weeks or even months. A few months ago I had the honor of meeting with someone who had a near death experience and without mincing words, asked me point blank “if I had  died would I have gone to hell?” This question caught me off guard and has stuck with me over the past few months.  While this question is very personal and straight to the point, shouldn’t this be a question each and everyone of us ask ourselves daily?

     To answer that question, I think we first need to ask a more fundamental question: what are we seeking in our lives? I dare say if I went around this church I would get all kinds of answers. Some of you, being honest, would say that you are seeking, money, fame, power, a pleasurable life etc. Yet, I have to wonder if anyone in this church today would honestly answer that they are seeking the kingdom of heaven.

     Friends, it can be so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of this life that we forget we were not made for this life, but rather we were made for the life to come. Sometimes it takes the threat of death to make us stop and think about our eternal destiny. Yet, waiting until death is close, may be cutting it to close and we may die before we have the chance to obtain the pearl of great price that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. If you knew there was a million dollars buried in the field, wouldn’t you stop what you are doing and go and dig it up right away. Why then would we risk missing out on the most important thing, eternal life?

     “Our first step to sanctity is realizing that nothing in life is worth so much as becoming a saint.”[1] In both of today’s parables Jesus reminds us that while gaining possession of the kingdom of heaven is possible for everyone, it comes at a great cost. If we want to become saints we must order everything else in our life around that goal of becoming a saint. Becoming a saint cannot be just one of many goals in our life; it must become thee goal of our life. If we want to obtain the kingdom of heaven, we must be willing to put that pursuit above everything else in our lives.

     In today’s first reading, Solomon shows us how to pursue that pearl of great price while still living in this world. When God promised him that He would grant him anything he asked for, Solomon didn’t ask for more riches, power, or pleasure, but rather for godly wisdom. He asked God, not for more blessings, but rather for the ability to know how to use the many blessings he had already been given. When was the last time we asked God how to use the many blessings we have in our lives, so that they can aid us in our ultimate goal of eternal life?

      If we are honest with ourselves I think we have to admit that each and everyone of us has been extremely blessed in our own way. If we want to be happy, both in this life, and in the life to come, then we need to ask God for the wisdom of Solomon. We need to ask God for the wisdom to live each day, properly using the blessing He has given us.

     Today’s parable should challenge each of us to ask, if I died now would I go to heaven. It should challenge us to ask ourselves what we are seeking in this life. So today I leave you with a few questions that I have been wrestling with ever since I met this woman a few months ago. What then are those things that keep you from following Christ? What are those things in your life that you must sell so that you can obtain that eternal treasure. Where in your life do you need the wisdom of Solomon, so that if I asked you what are you seeking, you could, in all honesty, say that everything in your life is ordered toward seeking the kingdom of heaven. My friends, Jesus tells us where the pearl of great price is. Are you willing to sell what you need to and go after it or do you want to take the risk of waiting until later, and perhaps missing out for eternity?

[1] Albert Joseph Mary Shamon. Three  Steps to Sanctity. Oak Lawn: CMJ Marian Publishers and Distributers (1993) pg 1

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