Read 1 Kings 3:5,7-12, Ps. 119:57,72,76-77,127-130, Romans 8:28-30, Matthew 13:44-52

“Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold… I give you a wise and discerning mind so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:11-12)

Two Sundays ago, Jesus explained the kingdom of God with the parable of the sower who generously spread seeds across various kinds of soil. Last Sunday, Jesus told us three more parables; the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast. God’s kingdom on earth (the church) is like a farm with wheat (good people) and weeds (evil people). Though it starts very small (like the tiny mustard seed), it soon becomes a great shrub. It is enough to leaven the dough like yeast, which may be small in quantity compared to the amount of dough.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains God’s kingdom again with another set of three parables; the treasure hidden in a field, the merchant searching for fine pearls, and the dragnet. One theme runs across these parables – wisdom. Just as the landowner exercised great wisdom by not letting his servants pull out the weeds (lest they pull out the wheat alongside), these parables challenge us to act with wisdom by carefully examining our choices.

Speaking of choices, our first reading today tells the story of Solomon. God was impressed with his sacrifice after the dedication of the temple. By offering such a huge sacrifice, Solomon acted like Abel (who sacrificed the best), Abraham (who was willing to sacrifice his only son) and the men in our Gospel passage today who sold all they had to purchase something of greater value. To reward Solomon, God appeared to him in a dream and asked him to make any request. This brings us to our lessons for today:

1. Wisdom is the Principal Thing

The book of Proverbs teaches us: “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income, is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.” (Proverbs 3:13-18)

What is that treasure hidden in a field? Wisdom. It is “hidden” because not many people know its value; in other words, it is hidden in plain sight. Jesus tells us that a man was working in a field and found it. He didn’t set out in search of this treasure but found it. This means he probably wasn’t the first person or the only person to have found it, but he was the one who recognised its value, and he decided to secure this treasure by letting go of all that he had previously. He didn’t mind embracing poverty for the sake of wisdom. He knew that wisdom was worth more than riches.

What is that pearl of great value? Wisdom. The merchant deliberately searched for wisdom while the farm worker accidentally stumbled upon it. Upon finding it, he had to sell everything he owned to buy it. Those who know the value of wisdom are ready to sacrifice everything to get it. They are ready to let go of the fleeting things of life, power, pleasure, and prosperity to hold on to wisdom.

No wonder St. John would say: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world-- the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches-- comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).

Do you want to buy wisdom? Then stop loving the world. Stop loving these passing things in the world. Remember constantly that you brought nothing to this world and would leave with nothing one day. Those who love the world are foolish – in the sense that the world controls them. They are ready to offend God (tell lies, steal, cheat, kill others, engage in immorality etc.) just to get the things that can never be theirs.

To love the world is to be like the proverbial donkey. The donkey hated farm work, but it wanted to eat carrots. The farmer tied some carrots on a stick attached to the donkey’s head. The more the donkey tried to reach for the carrots, the further they moved from sight. The farmer successfully made the donkey do all the farm work. To gain wisdom, we must sacrifice our love for the world.

2. Seek First God’s Kingdom: Everything Else Shall Be Added (Matthew 6:33)

In our opening prayer at Mass today, we prayed: “Grant that with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure…” This is another version of the prayer of Solomon in today’s first reading. When God asked Solomon to make any request, Solomon prayed: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil…” (1 King 3:9)

While we would not be wrong to say that Solomon asked for wisdom, the truth is that Solomon only asked for the ability to discern between good and evil. Solomon asked for the ability to live upright (God’s kingdom). The fact that Solomon did not ask for riches (prosperity), long life (pleasure), or the death of his enemies (power) request was pleasing to God. “Indeed, I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you.” (1 Kings 3:12-13)

Once upon a time, a king, while on his death bed called for his only son and slave. He loved both of them dearly and decided to share his property with both of them. So, he asked his slave to choose first while his son would choose last. The slave was so excited. He chose the king’s gold, silver, lands, farms etc. The slave chose everything that appeared valuable among the king’s possessions. Then it was the turn of the king’s son to choose. Can you guess what he said? “I choose the slave.”

To choose God’s kingdom is to act wisely. It is choosing everything that God has. Hence Jesus taught us: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness; all these things will also be given to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom first? It recognises the value of obeying God’s commandments. It is living an upright life amid the economic crisis, poverty, confusion and insecurity in our society today. Life has become difficult; many families cannot afford two meals daily. Do we abandon God’s law to fend for our families? Do we take to crime? This is a time to trust God more than ever before. This is a time to sing with our Psalmist: “The Law from you means more to me than large quantities of silver and gold.” (Today’s Responsorial psalm).

3. Wisdom is Patience

It is important to note that seeking first God’s kingdom does not automatically translate to a life of bliss (endless enjoyment, prosperity, power and success). Jesus said: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.” (Matthew 13:47-48)

The meaning of this parable is that we should expect all kinds of “fish”. There would be good times. There would also be bad times. There would be moments of excitement. There would also be moments of pain and disappointment. So long as we have chosen to prioritise God, we will face many trials; the devil will not stop his attempts to dissuade us from the right path.

Like the fishermen who waited to complete their day’s work before sorting out the fish, we must not be too quick to deal with every negative situation. Wisdom is patience. No matter how careful the farmer is, there will always be weeds in the wheat. The farmer may destroy the wheat if he rushes to pull the weeds. Like these fishermen who took their time to sort out the fish, we must learn to sort the good things (be grateful) and let go of the bad things (forgive, ignore, accommodate and accept) life throws at us.

Wisdom knows that no one has a perfect life, but perfect people know how to turn their scars into stars. Perfect people never stop trusting God because they know God always works for their good. This is what St. Paul teaches us in today’s second reading: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Why has life been tough for you lately? Do you think God no longer cares about you? Are you thinking of joining a cult or doing something illegal or immoral? Think again. God still cares about you. Make the right choice today – put God first, and you will never regret it.

Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, grant us the gift of wisdom to make the best decisions in life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12, Ps. 119:57,72,76-77,127-130, Romans 8:28-30, Matthew 13:44-52).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu