Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings: 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119: 57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was at the department store with her mother. While her mother was having a battery changed in her watch, the girl was gazing at all of the beautiful pieces of jewelry when her eyes caught upon a string of pearls which seemed to capture her. When she asked her mother if she could buy them, the mother replied that no, she would have to earn the money to buy them. And so she did - the girl's heart was set on those pearls - and she was attentive to every opportunity to earn the money to buy them. When she had enough, she proudly returned to the store to buy her beautiful pearls. She wore them every day, even with her play clothes, and carefully placed them on her dresser every night.
One night, when her Dad was tucking her in, he kissed her on the forehead and asked: "Honey, do you love me enough to give me your pearls?" Shocked, the girl replied that she loved her Dad very much, but would he take her bike instead? "No" he gently replied as he said good night. A month or so later, he asked the same question, and she replied the same way. Not long after, after their good night ritual, the little girl appeared in the living room, pearls in hand. Climbing into her Dad's lap, she said: "I love you so much, I am giving you my pearls." Tears welled in the Dad's eyes as he sat her on the couch and went to his own room.
When he returned, he had a gift box in his hand. Handing this gift to his daughter, she opened the box and her eyes grew wide. The gift was an even more beautiful string of pearls. The little girl clutched her Dad with a huge hug, thanking him. And he said: "Honey, sometimes we have to give up what we have to receive something better." There is a certain wisdom to this story. And, it's related to the wisdom themes in the readings we are given to hear on this Sunday.
In the first reading from Kings, we hear Solomon being invited to ask something of God. God notices that Solomon set aside asking for a long life or riches or the lives of his enemies; he asked simply for an understanding heart. And, Solomon is indeed given the gift of wisdom, an understanding heart.
Matthew's Gospel for the day is so familiar that we may be tempted to say something like "been there, done that." But if we listen closely and truly hear, we are given wisdom for our own lives. Matthew provides us three metaphors for the Reign of God: the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, and the great catch of fish.
It seems that there are three methods of attaining the "prize." The treasure in the field is simply found, perhaps stumbled upon; the pearl of great price is searched for; and the great catch of fish is simply the daily work of the fisher-folk. In the first two cases, the finders go and "sell all that they have" to acquire the prize. The fisher-folk have to sort through what is worthy of keeping and what is not.
Thus, we can stumble upon the Reign of God, we can search seriously for the Reign of God, or we can sort through the "stuff" of our lives to claim the Reign of God. And, like the little girl in the story, we will - with joy - give up what we have for the great gift of the Reign of God.
If we are left with one question upon which to reflect, it might be: how will we know the Reign of God when we see it, when we find it? Maybe it will have something to do with joy.
Sallie Latkovich, CSJ
Director of Biblical Study and Travel Programs
Director of Summer Institute
Adjunct Professor of Spirituality
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