July 30, 2017 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:28-30, and Matthew 13:44-46
I am back from vacation and will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis this weekend:
I just returned from a two-week vacation with my wife. While Carol and I live in the same house and work together every day, we don’t often get a chance to spend much time with just the two of us. I am thankful for having the past two weeks to re-connect with her.
A thought occurred to me more than once during our vacation: When I grow up, I want to be just like Carol.
I will come back to that thought a little later.
The scripture readings for today were challenging. The first reading left me feeling selfish and petty. The gospel left me feeling confused.
The Old Testament reading was from 1 Kings and in it we heard: The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered: ‘Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”
You may wonder why such a reading would leave me feeling selfish and petty. I tried to imagine for a moment what my response would be if God said the same thing to me. How would I respond if God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you”?
I can think of quite a few things that would likely come to mind: A big pile of money, a car with less than 200,000 miles on it, more time for myself, a longer NFL season. As I continue to list things, I might eventually include something for Carol or the kids, or the world. However, as ashamed as I am to admit it, the first dozen or so things out of my mouth would probably be stuff for me. I don’t know this for sure, but that’s my guess.
Maybe I would surprise myself, and God, and ask for something that would show that I was thinking of others first, or thinking of ways to best serve Him. However, I am no Solomon. I can say with some degree of certainty that my response to God would not have been to ask for an understanding heart. That’s an awesome answer.
Solomon gave us something to reflect upon when he responded to God in that way. He did not ask for riches or power, or for his enemies to be vanquished. Instead he asked for an understanding heart, a gift that would make him a better king and a better person, and would at the same time glorify God.
As for the gospel, I mentioned that it left me confused. Confused because it contradicts investment advice I have heard many times over the years. That advice: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
It seems like prudent advice. I should not invest all I have in one thing. If that one thing does not pan out, I lose it all.
Today’s gospel says just the opposite. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Sounds like Jesus is telling us to put all our eggs in one basket.
Investment consultants would certainly argue against taking a risk such as this. They would caution us against leaving ourselves so vulnerable.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is for those who allow themselves to be vulnerable, those who go all in. Full investment in God. All our eggs in His basket.
Two situations occurred while we were on vacation that illustrate the difference between being all in and holding back.
While at poolside, a man entered the area using a walker. Setting the walker aside, he took hold of the handrail and slowly, and painfully, began to lower himself into the pool.
I asked if he needed help and offered to assist him. He politely refused my help.
I was done at that point. I had been nice and offered to assist my fellow man.
Carol went into action. She began by facing him, making eye contact with him, and commenting on how well he was doing. She asked him if the pool was part of his therapy and inquired about his physical condition.
She and John, her new friend, then had a 30-40 minute conversation. John had a stroke very recently. Workouts in the pool helped him strengthen his weakened left side. He was worried about the future and the impact the stroke would have on his job as a teacher with school starting again soon. Carol listened and asked questions. She was engaging, empathetic, and consoling.
I hedged my bet by not totally investing in this man. If he had accepted my offer of help, I would have helped him into the pool and been done. Since he refused my help, at least I had offered, so I was done.
Carol put all her eggs in John’s basket, leaving herself completely vulnerable. He could have taken offense at Carol’s questions, or considered her intrusive. But he didn’t. The time spent in conversation with Carol was more therapeutic for him than the water of the pool.
I offered to perform a task for a stranger. Carol offered friendship to John. She had an understanding heart.
Two days later, again under an umbrella at poolside, I sat reading a book while Carol was doing some jewelry making.
A teenage girl was in the pool and at one point came and sat on the edge of the pool near us. She glanced our way a few times. She looked sad, a little lost.
If she had said, “I’m sad, will you comfort me?” I would have gone to her and offered words of support. If she had started crying, I would have gone to her, put an arm around her, and consoled her. But she didn’t do either of those things, so I didn’t do either of those things. I just read my book and wondered why the girl was sad.
Carol saw the girl glancing our way, too. She said, “I’m making some jewelry. Do you want to come over and watch?” The girl, Amy, came over. Carol spent the next hour with her, talking with her and giving her a jewelry-making lesson. They never talked about why Amy was sad, but for that hour, she wasn’t.
Carol put all her eggs in Amy’s basket, and in so doing, left herself vulnerable. Amy could have given her the teenage girl eye roll, or commented that jewelry making was lame. But she didn’t.
We found out later from the girl’s mom that Amy’s best friend had been killed by a drunk driver several weeks ago. The mom thanked Carol for her time. She said while watching Amy make jewelry by the side of the pool, she saw her smile for the first time in a long time.
I was ready to help a young girl if she asked for help. Carol stepped in because Amy might need help, because Carol has an understanding heart.
So, while today’s readings challenged me – making me feel selfish, petty, and confused – I am now prepared should God come to me in a dream and say, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Following the example of Solomon, I will ask God for an understanding heart.
I will ask Him if I can be just like Carol when I grow up.