Homily, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
1 Kings 3:5, 7–12; Psalm 119:57, 72, 76–77, 127–128, 129–130 (97a); Romans 8:28–30; Matthew 13:44–52
My homily at the 10:00 Mass at Holy Ghost today.
Today’s readings show us how crazy God is! He is crazy generous with us, but are we crazy generous with him?
In today’s first reading God offered Solomon a wish and promised to give him whatever he asked for. It reminded me of a game we’ve probably all played where we imagine that a genie gives us 3 wishes. I remember as a kid I would always imagine outsmarting that genie by asking for my 3rd wish that he would grant me three more wishes. I imagined that I could have everything I’d ever wanted because each time I made 3 wishes I would get three more. Are we like this with God?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with asking God for what we need. In fact, Jesus tells us to bring all of our needs to God. But, how often are our talks with Him a one-way conversation during which we make OUR wishes known? Perhaps we even try to negotiate with him by making promises about what we will do if he answers our prayers. Often he does answer our prayers – usually in unexpected ways – yet we may not hold up our end of the deal when he does.
This reminds me of a joke. A man was running late for an appointment and needed to find a nearby parking spot quickly. He said a prayer in which he asked God to help him find a good parking place and, if he did, he promised he would go to Mass every Sunday from now on. You see, this man did not attend Mass regularly and he felt like he would be making a big sacrifice for God by promising to do so every week. Just as he was praying while driving past the building where his meeting was, he saw a spot right out in front of the building. He immediately concluded his prayer saying, never mind God, I found a spot and I won’t need your help.
Isn’t that how we often are with God? We petition God for so many things, big things and little things, perhaps several times throughout our day – and we may even try to bribe him with our promises of how we will change if only he answers our prayers.
But how often do we come quietly before him in humility to offer ourselves completely to him, willing to do whatever he wants us to do? Are we willing to give everything to God in order to gain that pearl of great price Jesus speaks of in today’s gospel? Do we truly desire to have a real friendship with the Word of God, Jesus Christ, through whom God the Father created the universe? Are we willing to offer our gifts to help others, rather than just using them for our own benefit?
In today’s first reading, King Solomon could have asked God for ANYTHING. But he asked for Wisdom, wisdom to be a good and just ruler so that he would know how to best serve God’s people. We’re told that “The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this— not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right— I do as you requested.” God answered Solomon’s prayer because he asked God for understanding to know what God wanted him to do, not for those things that many others would have asked for themselves given the same opportunity.
Like the merchant in today’s gospel who sells everything to buy the pearl of great price when he finds it, are we willing to give everything we have to become Jesus’ disciple and so inherit the Kingdom of God? Are we willing to give him even just a PORTION of the gifts we have been given so that his love can work through us to help others? Do we understand that ONLY by using our gifts in his service, both spiritual and material, that we find his treasures of true faith, hope and love he has prepared for us?
Let me ask that you contemplate the following questions during your daily prayer time this week:
Do you truly believe that everything you have is a gift from God? Or, do you think you have what you have because you’ve earned it?
Do you ask God what he wants you to do for Him, or do you only ask him to do things for you?
Do you really try to put God first in your DAILY life, or do you only give him some priority on Sundays?
Do you tithe, meaning do you give 10% of your income in service of God’s work, trusting him and believing he will provide for you when you give him back this portion of what he has given you? Or, do you convince yourself that you can’t afford to tithe because you have so many financial obligations to meet?
Do you give some of your time to the church and its work, other than attending Mass on Sunday? Do you feed the poor, visit the sick, attend parish studies and events, volunteer when you find out something needs to done? Or, do you look the other way and figure that someone else will take care of it who’s not as busy as you are?
Do you understand that only in being generous with what we have been given by God, that we receive blessings from God? Or, do you think that what you have is given to you for your exclusive use?
Why am I asking these tough questions? Do you think it’s because I believe we all need a dose of good old-fashioned Catholic guilt? No, that’s not why I’m asking you – and asking myself – these questions. I’m asking them so that we might be BLESSED. That’s right, God wants us to live our life for HIM, this life he has GIVEN us, so that he can fill us with his grace. He wants us to understand that our lives are best lived in service of him, rather than in service of ourselves.
God makes us a promise in today’s Second Reading. What is that promise? It’s that “All things – ALL THINGS – work together for good for those who love God and are called by His decrees.” Isn’t that wonderful? He says that ALL things, even those things we do because of our sinful tendencies, even those tragic events and losses we all experience, work together for good. God uses EVERYTHING to work for GOOD for those who love Him.
He promises that if we just try to obey and give to Him what rightly belongs to Him, He is going to make it work out for the good. He knows we are going to sin, but He mercifully forgives our sins when we repent and sincerely resolve to try to sin no more. He uses our failings to humble us so that in our humility we can increasingly understand how much we NEED his healing grace. This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is such a powerful sacrament. The key is that we must RECOGNIZE our failings and RESOLVE to turn our lives over to him more and more each day.
Those of you who tithe can attest to the fact that by giving substantially you always have plenty for your own needs.
Those of you I see at so many of our parish events and faith enrichment programs can attest to the fact that by seeking to enhance your knowledge of the faith, while building relationships with others in our Christian community, there always seems to be plenty of time for performing your secular duties.
Those of you who quietly practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy know that by serving those in need, you yourself are generously ministered to in your time of need. When we make it our desire and practice to offer our lives to serve God – whatever form that may take – we are sure to have an abundance of whatever we personally need and we will certainly experience true joy in all of life’s circumstances.
What you do for God is between you and God. But we can’t know what God wants us to do unless we ask him and we’re willing to listen to his answer. More importantly, we can’t experience the joy that comes from selflessly serving God unless we offer ourselves generously to DO whatever he asks. THIS is the path to true joy and spiritual fulfillment.
Let us ask God this week how we can share with abandon the gifts he has given us. Let us pray that he will give each of us the grace to recognize the pearl of great price that is within our reach and that we will be willing to do whatever He asks so that we don’t miss the opportunity we’ve been given to possess that pearl.
Let our prayer today be that we will become as crazy generous with God as He is crazy generous with us.
God bless you.