Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary TimeScriptures for today's liturgy
Audio for homily
How many people here want to go to heaven when they die?
Anybody here want to go anywhere else when they die?
I thought not.
So, these two parables should be of interest to anyone
who wants to go to heaven.
If that’s really what we want.
And the scriptures today are all about what we really want.
In the first lesson the Lord said to Solomon,
“Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
What if the Lord came to you or me in a dream at night and said,
“Tell me what you want - it’ll be yours!”
What would you ask for?
What would I ask for?
Would the Lord give us what we asked for?
The Lord gave Solomon the “understanding heart” he asked for
but also told him,
“You’re getting this because your request wasn’t selfish,
or frivolous, or material or vengeful.”
What would you and I answer
were the Lord to grant us that one request?
In the gospel, the Lord offers us two very short parables
about wanting heaven --
but note the sequence of events in each.
The Lord tells of a treasure hunter who has already found a treasure,
and of a merchant who has already found the most valuable pearl.
Both having found what they want,
each is willing to give up everything he has to insure
that the treasure, fhe pearl will be his.
Of course the parable isn’t really about buried treasure and jewelry,
it’s about heaven.
So back to my first question.
If we all really want to go to heaven,
what are we willing to give up to make sure
that heaven’s where we’re headed?
As he so often does, Jesus asks here for - for ALL that we have.
“But that’s too much,” we cry! “You gotta be kidding, Jesus!
That’s not sensible, not practical!
We have all kinds of things we have and want;
we have more things to buy; bills to pay; families to raise;
and jobs to keep.
And I suspect the Lord’s response to all that might be,
“Well, then, I wonder if you’ve really thought about heaven.
Look at what you want to hold on to.
What’s more important? longer lasting? more valuable.
This was just the dilemma
faced by the man who found the treasure in a field
and the one who found the most valuable pearl:
What’s more important?
What I already have? Or what I could have, forever?
I don’t believe that Jesus is asking us to inventory all our possessions
and then put everything on Craig’s List.
But he is asking us to assess what we have, to take stock of it,
and, most importantly, to ponder what could be ours --
and to weigh the difference and consider the cost.
Perhaps the reason we don’t think about heaven
is that we treasure our possessions and our desire for them so much,
almost as if we find heaven in the treasures now in our possession.
Of course, nothing I own will last forever
but I will last forever -- and you will last forever.
Nothing I have will go with me when I die,
except my heart, my soul and my desire for God.
My desire for God...
What, in the depths of my heart and soul,
do I desire the most?
What brings me the deepest happiness now?
What happiness do I hope to have forever?
All the things that are mine now:
are they paving a path for me to heaven?
or are they stumbling blocks along the way?
If heaven is really where I want to go,
what am I doing now to make sure I get there?
You and I might need to do a lot of digging
through the fields of our lives, through all we have,
to find the treasure of wanting heaven...
And we might need to sort through a lot of costume jewelry
before we find the pearl of great price,
the most valuable of all: life forever with God.
The treasure hunter and pearl merchant had to decide,
“What am I willing to give up for the greatest treasure of all?”
The Lord asks us the same question today.
We are about to break open the treasure of the Eucharist
and to pour out the Lord’s wisdom by the cupful.
Pray with me that the sacrament of this table,
for which Christ gave away everything he had for us,
pray that the treasure of his sacrifice
will nourish wise and understanding hearts in us all.
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