The Pearl of Great Price

If you were approached by God, as was Solomon, and told, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” how would you respond? Would you ask for money? A happy family? Good health? World peace? Solomon asked for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Without minimizing the selfless character of his request, we should remember that, as king, he had no need for more riches. However, he certainly could have sought revenge on his enemies. Instead, he asked for the disposition needed to serve his people well. How would you respond?

What is it that we ask of God? I doubt that I am the only one who at some time in life prayed to pass a test or for good picnic weather. As important as such prayers might seem at the moment, they certainly are quite trivial when you look at the whole scheme of things. But then, to what extent do we really know what counts in life? It takes insight to realize what we should treasure and what is not worthy of us. This is particularly difficult when society assaults us with values that are really dis-values. Perhaps we should all pray for “an understanding heart.”

Today’s Gospel contains three parables, three wisdom stories that provide glimpses into the reign of heaven. The first two lend themselves to this particular reflection. They maintain that it is the reign of heaven that really counts. This reign is characterized as a treasure in a field or a pearl of great price. The parables challenge us to be willing to sell everything we have that this treasure may be ours.

What is this reign of heaven, for which we should be willing to give up all else? It is a way of living life here and now, not merely a state of being that will unfold after death. It is a life of faithful commitment; it is a life of integrity, of trust in God and service of others. Paul describes this as a life of conformity to the image of God’s own Son. He further states that God foreknew, then predestined, then called, justified and glorified.

We do not usually have difficulty understanding what is meant when we say that God called, justified and glorified. We are not even bothered with the idea of divine foreknowledge. It is with the notion of predestination that we sometimes struggle. But this does not mean that only some are predestined to be saved. We are accustomed to the idea that all were foreknown by God. Paul is very clear that God’s call is made to all. Therefore, it is correct to conclude that all are “predestined to be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.” All are meant to be justified and glorified. All are given the opportunity to discover the treasure. All will have to sell what they have in order to acquire it. The cost may be great, but “all things work for good for those who love God.”

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