Possessing What Really Matters
17th Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told of a famous actor who, after a large dinner at his stately mansion in Hollywood, entertains his guests with stunning readings from Shakespeare. Then, for an encore, he asks his quests what they would like to hear. A shy, old priest asks if he knows Psalm 23. The actor says, "Yes, I do and I will give it on one condition: that when I am finished, you recite the same psalm."

When the embarrassed priest consents, the actor begins a beautiful rendition... "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want..." The guests applaud loudly when the actor finishes.

Then it is the priest's turn. He gets up and says the same words. This time, there is no applause, just a hushed silence and the glimmer of tears in several eyes.

After a considerable silence, the actor stands up and says, "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you realize what happened here tonight. I know the words of the psalm, but this priest knows the Shepherd."

The present "conflict" between the Israelites and the Palestinians is not a new phenomenon. Long before the coming of Jesus, this was already going on. When this happened, wealthy people buried their treasures before evacuating. If their place was overrun by the enemy, they did not return anymore. Later generations would not know where the treasures were hidden.

In today's gospel reading (Mt. 13: 44-52) Jesus, aware of this reality, tell us the parable of a farm worker who stumbled upon a hidden treasure while tilling the soil. Forthwith, he buried it again. He then sold everything and bought the land. In a second parable, Jesus tells of a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one of great price, he also sold everything he owned and bought it.

The Reign of Jesus in our hearts is the buried treasure or the pearl of great price. It is for this that Jesus is asking us to search, and once discovered and its value fully appreciated, to sacrifice everything to possess it.

The story of the priest above is about one who has found the hidden treasure or the pearl of great price--the Reign of Jesus in his hearts. For this, he turned his back on everything else so as to possess it and allowed it to influence his life for good.

This is what Jesus is teaching us when after narrating the parables, He asks the people, "Do you understand all these things?" He wants us to act in the same way as the finders of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price did in order to possess them. As the priest in our story also did. For if we do not, then we would never bother to renounce everything to possess it.

We often crave for material things and we work hard to acquire them. But once we have acquired them we are not really as happy as we have hoped to be and so we begin again to search for something else. This just shows that deep within our hearts, we are searching for "something" that will give us peace and joy amidst life's ups and downs. And we are ready to pay whatever price just to have it.

We all know Solomon as the wisest man that ever lived. In the first reading (1Kgs. 3: 5.7-12) we heard God saying to him, "Ask whatever you want from me and I will give it to you." After telling God of his youth and the great people over which he was king, Solomon responded, "Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong."

God was so pleased with what Solomon asked that He said, "Because you have asked for this--not for a long life, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies,... 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." Moreover, He gave the other things that Solomon did not ask for. As the Bible attests Solomon governed God's people as wisely and justly as no other king had done.

If God will give us the same chance as He gave Solomon what will we ask for? We may ask for good health, happiness, wealth or at least to have enough to live comfortably--a decent house, sufficient food, decent clothing and money for our children's education. These are legitimate things to ask for.

But is that all that God is capable of giving us? No. All along He has been offering us His Son's Reign in our hearts. This is the only thing that can give us the peace and joy that we have been searching for all along. And once we are gifted with it, we must be willing to pay its high price--live according to its demands. Are we willing to do this?

May we have the wisdom of Solomon to know and desire the only thing that really matters - Jesus' Reign in our hearts - and once in our possession, to live its values throughout our lives.