In marketing, the value you place on a product determines the amount of money you will be willing to give out for the purchase of it. The more valuable an item or service is to you, the more money you will be ready to spend on it. To spend more and unbudgeted money on an item, you need to let go of other items you would have bought too. The liturgy of today invites us to price the kingdom of heaven higher than any other thing such that we will be ready to give up everything in order to gain it. That is how holiness is defined and attained. We are holy only to the extent to which we are ready to use our all, forsaking every other thing, for the sake of loving God. In the Old Testament, it was generally believed that God ministered to his people through the King. When Solomon became king, he did not want to betray God whom he represented to the people and the people for whom he was God’s mouthpiece. The only way he could guarantee this was to rule rightly. The desire to rule justly motivated his request for wisdom and understanding in today’s first reading.
In asking for these, he forgone the alternatives of long life and riches for himself and victory over his enemies. These alternatives are what made a King great in the eyes of men. Yet, Solomon sacrificed them all for the sake of dutiful service to God and the people. In the gospel, we find two parables in which Jesus taught about sacrificing for the kingdom of heaven. This time, it took the nature of investment. A man found a treasure in a field, he calculated that there will more of it in other parts of the field; he valued the treasure more than all his resources put together. Consequently, he sold all that he had and bought the field. In like manner, a merchant in search of fine pearls (take note of the plural), would have taken with him some amount of money that such fine pearls would cost. But on discovering a single pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Beloved, how much do you price the kingdom of Heaven? Is it more valuable than other persons and things in your life? This question is only honestly answered at moments of temptations. In every temptation, we are faced with the attractive value of sin. At that time, we weigh within us which is of more value to us: the love of God or the pleasure of the world. Each time we commit sin, we judge the kingdom of God to be of lesser value to something else in our lives; each time we overcome temptation, we say to God: “You are the Best”. Thus, the key to overcoming temptation is to first discover the value of the kingdom of God. If the merchant had not known the value of the one pearl of great value, he would not have sold his all to buy it. Forgoing all other alternatives means that the kingdom of God cannot cohabite with another in our hearts. God does not want to live in us as a tenant or a landlord but as the only occupant.
What picture of heaven and of hell do you have? How often do we think of life after death? It is not possible to aim at heaven without depriving yourself of some pleasures and even looking insane to some persons around you. For this reason, St. Paul encourages us in the second reading that no matter the sacrifice we have to make to attain heaven, God works for the good of those who choose him over the world. Ps. 126:5 says: “those who are sowing in tears, will sing when they reap”. You cannot harvest when you have not planted; you cannot reap when you have not sown; you cannot graduate out of a school you were never admitted into. Clearly, every one of us is investing for eternity. But the question is, is it for heaven or for hell. The third parable in today’s gospel teaches us that on the last day, we will get the “turnover” of the particular investment we have made here on earth. Gal.6:8 is very clear on this: “the one who sows for the benefit of his own flesh shall reap corruption and death from the flesh. He who sows in the Spirit shall reap eternal life from the Spirit”.
Dear Friends, let no one deceive you! There is no short cut to heaven. Many deceive themselves by saying: let us enjoy ourselves now, then we will sought out issues about eternity latter. Whatever it will take for you to overcome a sinful habit, do it. The joy of heaven is greater than the pleasure of sin. No matter the pain that comes with breaking a sinful relationship, bear it; the company of sinners leads to doom, but those who delight in the law of the Lord are truly blessed (cf. Ps.1:1-2). I encourage you and myself today never to grow tired of doing what is right for in due time we shall reap the reward of our constancy (cf.Gal.6:9). Those who seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness never really lose anything at last (cf.Matt.6:33). God Bless You!
• Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke is a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin City.