What’s in your Heart?

Homily for July 30, 2017 (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

A popular credit card commercial asks, “What’s in your wallet?”  God’s word today asks us some far more profound questions: “What’s in your heart? What are your priorities?  For what are you willing to spend all you have, your entire self?”

In our gospel reading, Jesus used three different images to describe the kingdom of God.  It’s important to remember that when Jesus spoke of the kingdom he wasn’t referring to a place but rather a condition, one that had its roots in the covenant that God made with the people of Israel.  It was in effect allowing God and God’s will—especially as it was expressed in the Law and the prophets—to govern their lives.  Those “instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” he told his disciples, were those who could draw from their stores of the new (his own teaching) and the old (the Law and the prophets).  As the Lord’s disciples today, we are invited to do the same.

But how much do we value God’s kingdom and our relationship with God?  How much of ourselves and of our means are we willing to spend to realize it?  Jesus likened its value to a hidden treasure or a precious pearl.  We all have limited resources of time, talent and treasure.  God has given us the freedom to choose how they will be spent, and with that freedom comes the responsibility to choose well.

Solomon understood this.  Offered by God the opportunity to ask whatever he wanted, he recognized that his youth, inexperience and the enormous task of governing and serving a community as large (and often contentious) as the people of Israel were not things he could handle on his own, and earthly power and riches wouldn’t cut it.  So he asked for “an understanding heart” to judge his people well and “to distinguish right from wrong.”  Even at a young age, Solomon understood that the people over whom he ruled were ultimately God’s people and that he was God’s steward.

Because he had his heart in the right place, God gave Solomon the wisdom that he requested and much more besides.  In 1 Kings 3:13 (not part of today’s first reading), God assured him that, because he chose well, he would also receive things he didn’t ask for:  riches and renown as the greatest of Israel’s kings.  Some would have called him fortunate, but as the Roman philosopher Seneca would later observe: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  Solomon prepared well.

St. Paul assures us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)  The grace and other blessings that we have received from God are our opportunity.  What will we make of them? +