ON THIS SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME we hear two parables: The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone finds, hides and then sells everything he owns in order to buy. Or like a precious pearl for which a pearl expert sells everything he has in order to buy. Implicit in both images is that the landowner and the pearl merchant aren’t stupid. They’re selling everything, yes, but they’re gaining something they know is much more valuable. They’re coming out great winners in the exchange. That treasure, that priceless pearl, is worth more than everything in their lives put together — and I’m sure they, like any of us, would have had many things that they would have been attached to — and each is willing to take the risk of losing everything they have in order to gain that much more valuable fortune. God is calling each one of us to treat the kingdom of God, to treat our faith, like the wise landowner and pearl merchant. To put our faith first in our lives, to consider it more valuable than everything else we have, than all of the good things we have combined, and, if need be, to take those risks we have to in order to persevere and grow in faith. In the presence of God today, we need to examine our consciences on how we’re doing as children of the kingdom in these two areas. First, how valuable is our faith to us? Is it the most important thing in our lives, or something that we take out on Sundays or a few times over the course of the week? Second, what risks or sacrifices are we willing to take in order to preserve and grow in faith? In the first place, how valuable is our faith, our living relationship with God, to us? What is our real treasure? Another way of looking at this question is to put ourselves in the shoes of Solomon, King of Israel. If God were to say to us, as he said to Solomon, “Ask what you would like me to give you,” what would we ask for? God told Solomon what people normally ask Him, and it seems that things haven’t changed very much in 3,000 years. Many ask for a long life or health, both good things, surely, but not the most important thing. Others ask for riches, for wealth, for material things, as God said to Solomon. Others ask for things out of ambition, for the life of their enemies, to be more important or more popular than the guy or gal down the street or in the office or in school. Solomon pleased God immeasurably because, although he could have had anything, he asked for the wisdom to know and understand God and His Will, so that he might love God and serve others better. His faith in God and in his Covenantal Law of Love was the most important thing in his life, and God was so pleased to grant his prayer. Today, right here in our Cathedral parish, God is willing to grant us anything we ask for in Jesus’ name and need. And if we ask Him for an increase in faith, for an augmentation in the wisdom found in knowing God and His Will, for an intensification of love for Him and for others, for the courage to put Him and His Kingdom first, He will answer our prayers! So what’s stopping any of us from asking? Maybe the second point, because like the Rich Young Man we’re truly afraid of making those sacrifices that we know will bring us into a closer relation with Jesus. Our faith, folks, requires a sacrifice, a dying to ourselves, so that we might live more freely and happily in God. Like the landowner and the pearl merchant, we need to take a risk, to sacrifice what we might treasure now, in order to obtain that treasure which lasts forever. God has made it that way for a reason. And in order to get the payoff, we have to be willing to take that most important risk, because if there were no real gamble involved in faith, it wouldn’t be faith – the greatest payoffs are for those who take the biggest risks in faith, who, trusting in God, take that giant leap of faith out into the unknown rapids of life, confident that God, as St. Paul writes, will make everything work out for the good for those of us who love him. Folks, I would like to make a concrete suggestion and invitation to us as an application of today’s Gospel. If we really want to put the Catholic faith first in our lives, I can think of no better place to start than by taking more seriously the greatest event ever – Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, made present for us every day at Mass. Second is to simply put into practice what St. James reminds us – “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). These two actions can get our priorities – and those of the world – back on the straight and narrow, and set a firm foundation for us to better know, love, and serve God so that we may do His Will is serving others.
THANK YOU FR. JORDAN LENAGHAN, O.P. who departs at the end of this week to resume his duties as Chaplain at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Fr. Lenaghan has been extremely helpful at the Cathedral during July while I have been on medical leave – something he volunteered to do during his vacation time. Thank you, Fr. Lenaghan, who is always welcome at the Cathedral and in the Diocese of Columbus.
QUICK HEALTH UPDATE: This coming Tuesday I will have outpatient surgery to install a “port” for my chemotherapy. The first of 12 sessions of chemotheraphy (alternating weeks over a 24-week period) has been postponed by two weeks, and is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 18. This will accommodate the retreat and vacation schedules of Fr. Noble and Fr. Hilary, and will actually give me some much needed time to catch up and begin resuming active priestly ministry.
-Fr. Mike Lumpe