Homily – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, today’s gospel about the pearl of great price calls each of us to consider what is most important in our lives and of how much we would give for this most important item.  Our consideration of what is most important to us no doubt includes more than one thing; more than likely, the consideration includes several things, persons among the list.  Solomon in today’s first reading; asks for something outside of himself, for the good of others—that he would be wise ruler.  Would we do the same—ask for the good of others or would “the great pearl seeking” be all about us?

The story that Jesus tells today says that the merchant gave everything because the treasure he found was so great that he was willing to give it all to have that prize.  If we think about who we consider our most treasured persons, perhaps our values in life, would we indeed give it all? I think we have an example of this in the person of Senator John McCain, a long-time Republican senator from Arizona. Recently, as you all know, Senator McCain was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer.  I think this life-changing moment encouraged him to go after the “great pearl” placed before him, truth and justice, concerning health care and finally, “work across the aisle” with the opposing party, to do the right thing.

Jesus tells us that the kin-dom of heaven is like that—and the pearl of great price is the Word and way of God.  God has first loved us and asks merely that we love God in return. God loves each of us with an understanding heart, the gift that Solomon asked for in the first reading, to judge his people well and “do the right thing.”  John McCain’s significant vote in the early hours of Friday morning, added to the women’s Collins and Murkowski’s steadfast votes of earlier in the week, stopping a bad health care bill, that would serve so few very poorly, came from an understanding heart, a heart that was finally prompted to rise up, finally, finally, before it was too late, to do the right thing.

Paul tells us today in his letter to the Romans, “God makes all things work together for good”—sometimes it takes a while, but our hope is truly in our good God to change hearts!

Is our love merely something on our tongues or do our hearts become engaged too? Can we say, “I would give it all for the pearls of great price in my life?”  Are we willing to so conform our lives to God’s ways so as to make the changes necessary to truly be followers of our brother, Jesus?  How much would we be willing to give—our reputations, our livelihoods, our very lives?  As we see in the person of John McCain, our ability to make these great decisions to be who God has called each of us to be changes as we grow and change.

We are told in Psalm 119 today to “glorify the law of God,” but that doesn’t mean to take it in a legalistic way. Instead; we should remember God’s covenant with the people of Israel and by extension, with us. God’s covenant with all of us is about God loving us first. Let me repeat that as it is most important that we get this one idea—God, my friends, loved us first! The covenant continues from there—it’s all about following God’s lead, about us then, showing lovingkindness and compassion in our world.

In this, I am speaking of the Cosmic Christ, that life-force moving in our world that is bigger than any religion, ideology, or way of life.  The goodness that planet earth represents continually calls each of us to good, to make the wise decisions as did Solomon to give back to our world and its people the good each of us is capable of.   Our free wills allow us to choose solely for what is best for us as individuals and a country, but the life-force of the Cosmic Christ calls us, pulls us, strains within this universe and its people to choose wisely, being our best, not only for ourselves, but for everyone.

John McCain spoke eloquently these past days about doing the right thing for everyone and passing a health care bill that truly serves people.  And this will mean working with others, doing the truly hard work of listening to each other.  This doesn’t mean that everyone gets everything that they want, but that each side gets an equal amount and the two sides find a place where they can agree, while not stopping progress because  they can’t have it all—deciding which “pearls” can be let go of, which cannot.

Paul words that, “Everything works unto good for those who love God” isn’t the same as saying that everything will work out in the end—it is part of the human condition—we live imperfectly, now. God walks with us extending lovingkindness and compassion.  I think we don’t always believe that God is this good, because we don’t spend enough time in regular communication with the One who loves us above all others.

We are God’s pearls of great, great price.  If we are truly to believe this and act upon it in our lives, we will have to take time in our days to come to know this God of Love better.   God isn’t some being far off, unconnected to us and our lives, but with us, here and now, in the faces of our own “pearls of great price,” spouses, children, good friends—each can show us glimpses of our loving God if we can look with eyes of love, understanding and care.  The “pearl of great price” is always there, it is just for us to become wiser, see more clearly, love more deeply.

My friends, to repeat, in other words, our God always wants good and not bad for us, is our cheerleader, our best friend—wants us to choose what is best for us and ultimately for others, because our lives are not just for ourselves, but for all that we touch in this world.

We may sometimes think that God doesn’t hear or doesn’t care when we pray for something that doesn’t happen. God’s walk with us in this life is not about rescuing us, but about giving us the strength to be whom we were called to be.  Again, John McCain and the Republican women senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are models in this now.

The misfortunes that happen to each of us in life are part of what it means to be human and prepare us for all that comes next.  But whatever it is that befalls us or graces us in this life; we can be sure that our God is there to share it with us—we just have to remember to not keep God far off, but front and center.

Every day, sincerely ask Jesus to be part of your day, allowing you to live a life of profound wisdom and always to make choices from the heart, not the head—the heart is a truer, more profound starting place.

Solomon, in the first reading today from Kings is a wonderful model for each of us in this quest to be our best selves.  He could have asked God for anything, riches of all kinds, money, a fine life; but instead he asks for wisdom and understanding that he might rule the People of Israel well—a nation so vast, they couldn’t be counted.  History shows us that indeed he did become a ruler like no other before or since, known for his wise and understanding heart.

What are the choices, my friends, that each of us will make? Who do we ultimately serve in our lives? What is the great pearl that we strive after and how much are we willing to give to have it? May we each be blessed with all we need to choose wisely.  Amen?  Amen!