Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time-A
This weekend’s readings are about what constitutes our treasure and its importance. We have all acquired material treasures, perhaps our house, automobile, or something else. We also have other treasures, a hybrid between purely material possessions and the emotional connection with the item. It might be the knickknack we inherited from our parents, reminding us of our fond memories with them. Finally, some treasures are entirely devoid of the material world and reside solely in the spiritual realm. The spiritual treasure, sometimes hard to articulate, is at the heart of any spiritual life.
King Solomon, taking over the throne from his father David, didn’t seem to think too hard about what he treasured the most. While asleep, the Lord came to Solomon in a dream and told him, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you.” Solomon didn’t ask for more riches, for with them, he could enrich himself and his kingdom. He didn’t ask for a long life or health that could continue the work of the Lord for years to come. Nor did he wish to annihilate his enemies so his people could live peacefully. Instead, he asked God for an understanding heart to judge his people and to distinguish right from wrong. God then said to Solomon, “I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”
If placed in a similar situation, how many would ask for an understanding heart and the ability to know right from wrong? Solomon asked for something extraordinary, realizing divine attributes are far superior to anything the world can offer. He asked for the characteristics of the divine long before Jesus rose from the dead when God offered his divine life to all who believed. Solomon’s story indicates something intrinsic to the human condition, desiring eternal things even without knowing human beings could share in God’s divinity. The desire of human beings to cohabitate with the divine and live eternally is the buried treasure in each human heart.
In teaching about the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells his disciples, “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.” Or the kingdom of heaven is like “a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds the pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Every Christian’s treasure is to fulfill the desire, through Jesus Christ, of living eternally with God. Often it is hidden because of the stubbornness of our heart, seeking desires that are more available and easier to attain, such as self-gratification, material wealth, and power. Once we have detached from these things, the ultimate desire or treasure of living with God forever becomes the driving force of our life.
Consider this: Jesus did exactly what he preached about finding a treasure, but in reverse. God‘s greatest treasure is the creature he loves, buried in the tomb of sin. Giving up all of his heavenly riches and place of honor, Jesus was incarnated in the flesh to recover the treasure of humanity. He gave up all that he had (his life) so the treasure of humanity would be returned to God for all eternity. Likewise, the Blessed Mother Mary at the foot of the cross, gave up everything dear to her as Jesus ransomed his life for ours on the cross.
Shouldn’t we then, as Christians, start giving up those things which distort our desire for real treasure? A good start is asking God for an understanding heart and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.