Father Donald Senior, CP

July 30: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 30, 2017

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

What if you had a dream like Solomon’s and God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What would you ask for?

According to this Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Kings, Solomon asked for “an understanding heart,” an answer that pleased God. Think of the things we might long for — our mortgage paid off, good health, happiness and safety for our teen child, steady employment, peace in our marriage — the list could be long.
I remember hearing a radio interview with the head of the Gray Panthers organization (an advocacy group for the elderly) who was asked what was the “program” of her organization. She replied, “we seek three things: something worthwhile to do, something to look forward to and someone nearby to love.” Those are hopes probably all of us share.

In his beautiful encyclical “Saved by Hope,” Pope Benedict XVI distinguished between what he called greater and lesser hopes. Some of our lesser hopes, the pope noted, change over time according to different periods in our lives.

“Sometimes one of these hopes may appear to be totally satisfying without any need for other hopes. Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives. When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that we have need of a hope that goes further,” Pope Benedict writes.

It is not a matter of our lesser hopes being unworthy or useless. Rather, it is a matter of them being incomplete. We need such hopes to keep us going and to find joy in our lives. But these lesser hopes do not fulfill all our longings and cannot guarantee us ultimate peace of heart.

However, these everyday hopes can also be beacons that lead us to a deeper and more fundamental hope. Our Christian faith has different ways of speaking of this kind of fundamental, great hope: we seek ultimate peace, unending and fully satisfying love, life eternal.

Perhaps the most radical way of expressing this deepest of hopes is that we long for God, the God who made us and loves us, the God of mercy and tender compassion revealed to us by Jesus. St. Augustine’s often quoted words come to mind: “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you.”

Jesus’ parables in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel fit right into this quest for ultimate life. A man discovers a treasure buried in a field and goes and sells all he has in order to buy that field and acquire the treasure.

A pearl merchant searching for fine pearls discovers “a pearl of great price” and goes and sells everything he owns in order to purchase that one magnificent pearl.

When we find something of such ultimate and compelling value we are willing to sacrifice everything in order to gain that treasure.

This, Jesus explains to his disciples through his parables, is what is meant by seeking the “kingdom of heaven.” Our lives are to be guided by the deepest, most noble and most life-giving desires we have.

We still need our lesser hopes — everyday things that bring us pleasure and joy in our families and among our friends, or satisfaction in our work.
But as people of faith, we also realize that we cannot put all our trust in the fulfillment of such lesser hopes. As Christians we do not live “as if there were no tomorrow.” Beyond the people, things and activities that make up our lesser hopes is the mystery of our destiny with eternal life, with the God of love revealed by Jesus and his giving of life for us.

That deeper, greater hope can give lasting meaning to our lives and guide us on the path to peace.