17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

          There is one character in the Arab traditional stories who is familiar to us:  it is Genie. Genie is a magical spirit who does or provides whatever the person who controls it asks. We usually associate Genie with “granting of wishes.” Once I was asked, “If Genie appears to you and gives you three wishes he will grant, what will they be?” And I said jokingly, “I will ask for ten new ‘Genies’.”

          Our faith tells us that we have a God who is capable of granting, not only our wishes, but the best gifts we ask from him. He is a faithful God who says to each of us: “Ask something of me and I will give you.”

          This is exactly the image of God that today’s first reading gives us. In a dream Solomon hears the voice of God saying, “Ask something of me and I will give you.” What does Solomon ask for?  He asks for wisdom – saying, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Solomon does not ask for material riches; he does not ask of a long life; he does not ask for a vast military power to defeat his enemies. Rather, he asks for an understanding heart that he may rule God’s People with wisdom. What he asks for really is to have what he needs to do God’s will, to align his desires with God’s desire for God’s people. Everything else is of little value in comparison to this gift of having what is necessary to do God’s will.

          It is a healthy exercise to imagine the Lord telling you, “Ask something of me and I will give you.” Or the Lord asking you: “What do you want?” What will you say? How you answer that question (your honest question) will tell you a lot about the state of your soul?

          St. Thomas Aquinas was once praying before the Crucifix and the Voice came telling him, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What would you want as a reward?” Thomas answered (in Latin): “Non nisi te, Domine.” “Nothing but You, Lord.” He wanted nothing except the Lord Jesus. Right here, right now, do you have the same answer to the question, “What do you want?” Can you honestly say, “Nothing but You, Lord”?

          The question posed on us in today’s first reading may give us an entrée into today’s gospel reading. Picking up from the first reading, today’s gospel passage is confronting us with a similar question: “What do you value or treasure most of all that you want to have it so badly?” Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, uses two parables: about a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price. He uses these to make us think of something or someone that is of such value that we are willing “to sell all we have” to obtain that treasure or pearl. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven (or the kingdom of God) to a very human experience of finding something so valuable that it shapes the rest of our life. Nothing is of any value in comparison to what you have found.

          The Gospels show that for Jesus the “hidden treasure” and “pearl of great price” is his personal, intimate relationship with his Abba and his passion for the realization of the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus comes to live for and to live by faithfully. He is so alive in God that everything has to be in alignment with God’s will, God’s desire for justice, mercy and compassion.

          Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of God is far more precious than even the most expensive jewel. Nothing should ever displace the values of the kingdom from the number one place in our priorities. But the question is:  What are our real priorities?

          One way to try and keep our priorities straight might be to remember that our earthly life is virtually a blink of an eye in comparison to the eternal life that has been promised to those who seek the kingdom of God with all their heart, mind and soul. So, we must be ready to give up many valuable things if these become incompatible with the following of Jesus. We must be willing to give up whatever is necessary to possess that treasure, secure that pearl of great price –which is none other than the kingdom of God. Our entire life must be focused on the kingdom of God. Dito dapat nakatutok ang isip natin, nakatuon ang puso natin, at ito dapat ang pinagbubuhusan natin ng oras at lakas.

          Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.” Seek God first, and you will find everything else falling into right relationship. (Bishop Robert Barron) To the question “What do you want?” I hope I can truthfully answer it by saying, “I want the kingdom of God.” “I want God to reign on me.”

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