The Choice is Yours
The Scripture readings today are filled with choices. As we all know when presented with choices, sometimes it is not easy to make the correct choice. Sometimes it turns out that easiest choice is not always the best choice.
When the Lord appeared to Solomon, he gave Solomon a choice – to ask something of God and God would give it to Solomon. Solomon could have asked God for something solely for himself, however he chose wisely and asked for an “understanding heart to judge God’s people and to distinguish right from wrong”. God was so pleased with Solomon’s request he gave him “a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like him up to now, and after him there will come no one to equal him”. Solomon’s request set him apart from all other kings of Israel. Those whose hearts are filled with understanding are able to discern the treasure that is the kingdom of heaven and know to pursue it.
Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew is filled with parables likening the kingdom of heaven – to a treasure buried in a field, a merchant searching for fine pearls and a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. These parables are also about choices and whether we have the discernment to choose wisely. Such choices according to these parables, may involve the giving up of other valuables and often incur sobering consequences.
“Treasure buried in a field
What do you treasure the most and how do you keep it from being lost or stolen? In a peasant community the best safe was often the earth. The man in the parable (Matthew 13:44) "went in his joy" to sell everything. Why? Because he found a treasure worth possessing above all things he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17) as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can't pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare.
Obtaining the greatest possible treasure
The pearl of great price also tells us a similar lesson. Pearls in the ancient world came to represent the supremely valuable. Jesus remarked that one should not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Why would a merchant sell everything for a peerless pearl? No doubt because he was attracted to what he thought was the greatest treasure he could possess. Discovering God's kingdom is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price.
When we discover the kingdom of God, we receive the greatest possible treasure – the Lord himself. Selling all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure could mean many things – our friends, job, our "style of life", what we do with our free time. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. In this parable what does the treasure of the kingdom refer to? It refers to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek. If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty (Job 22:22- 23). Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?
God draws us into his kingdom
What can a story of a dragnet and a great catch of fish tell us about God's kingdom? Two of the most common ways of fishing in Jesus' time was with a casting-net which was thrown from the shore and the drag-net which was let down or cast into the waters from a boat. As the boat moved through the waters the drag-net was drawn into the shape of a great cone which indiscriminately took in all kinds of fish swept in its path. It usually took several men to haul such a net to shore.
What is Jesus' point here? Just as a drag-net catches every kind of fish in the sea, so the church acts as God's instrument for gathering in all who will come. Just as the drag-net does not or cannot discriminate, so the church does not discriminate between the good and the bad, the useful and the useless. God's kingdom is open to all who will accept and believe. But there will come a time of separation, at the close of the age, when the angels will send the good and the bad to their respective destinations. Our task is to gather in all who will come. God, in the end, will give the good (those who accept and follow Christ) and the bad (those who refuse Christ) the reward they deserve. God offers the treasure of his kingdom to all who believe in Christ. Do you hunger for God and for his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?”
Training for God's kingdom
When Jesus had finished speaking about his parables, he turned to his disciples and asked them, "Have you understood all this?" (Matthew 13:52). Jesus asks us the same question. If we want to understand the meaning and significance of the parables for our daily lives, then we must reflect and think through what the Lord is saying to us through his instruction. The Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher who helps us to grow in understanding of God's word in the Scriptures.” Laudate reflection
We are no different than the people of Jesus’ time that heard these parables. We have choices to make each and every day. It’s up to us to decide are we living for today or are we living for our ultimate destination – the kingdom of heaven.
Two weeks ago, I got to witness the sacrament of matrimony between my daughter and her new husband. These two young adults (like all young adults) were faced with many choices throughout high school and then college. As I sat on the sidelines and watched them maneuver the choices and obstacles thrown their way over the years, it amazed me how they succeeded in making good choices most of the time. Even more amazing to me was when the choice they made was not the best, how they seeked council from the Lord (and their parents) to make corrections and get back on track with their lives and serving God and his people.
Just a few days ago, I made a choice to give up an hour of my time to sit with a friend who is sick so his wife could get an hour of solitude. This couple has been home-bound for the most part due to the fear of Covid, but also because of a medical condition that has severely hampered his ability to get around on his own. Basically, this couple went from being a happy active retired couple to a couple where the wife is living up to her wedding vows and taking care of her husband in sickness and in health.
I could have stayed home and worked on something else – like doing a better job preparing this homily. But the Holy Spirit was telling me this couple needed the hour apart. I’m glad that I was able to help out. The hour with this friend was spent just listening and encouraging him. I think it did his heart some good to speak to someone else and not further burden his wife. For the wife, she was overjoyed just to get an hour away to clear her head and know that her husband was not left alone.
I tell you this not because I want you all to think that I did something fabulous – because I don’t see it that way at all. I tell you this because there are no guarantees in life and we are faced with choices every day. What I witnessed from visiting these friends was pure and absolute love for each other and a perseverance to serve each other and the Lord in any way they are capable of.
Our time here on earth is short. We are faced with choices every day. If we fail and make a bad choice, that’s ok – because we have a forgiving God. God loves us and is always willing to give us more chances to choose wisely – and guide us to the kingdom of heaven.
If you feel as though there are choices you’ve made in life that are not worthy of God’s forgiveness – think again. God wants to reconcile with each of us and there is no better time to do that then now – with the sacrament of reconciliation. With a restored relationship with God and a clear conscience we stand a much better chance of choosing wisely as we make our way to the kingdom of heaven.