How to be wiser than Solomon and find that pearl of great price.
I for one never expected to find nuggets of wisdom in a training book for high school wrestlers. Yet one coach seemed to know as much about human and spiritual development as he did about takedowns and pins. His book was sprinkled with wise sayings that have stayed with me over the years. One, attributed to an anonymous source, goes like this:
This got me thinking—if I really wished to reach my goals, it will entail giving up a lot of things, even good things. I realized that it is worth sacrificing smaller and short-term pleasures (back then, it meant cutting out nearly all TV and videogaming and giving up most of the foods I enjoyed) for the sake of a greater and lasting good (in my case a #1 state ranking and acceptance to the Naval Academy). Sure, in retrospect these were not exactly greater and lasting goods. But, what the heck, I was only 15.
Solomon understood this principle, too, as we see in today’s First Reading. When God invited Solomon to ask him for anything, the new king was willing to pass over the prerogatives of a king—riches, power, a long life, the destruction of his enemies—for a much greater gift: “an understanding heart to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kgs 3:9).
An understanding heart is one that’s in synch with the heart of Jesus—a wise, generous, merciful, loving heart. To be able to always discern between good and evil is a priceless gift that God wants to give to all of us. But it can’t be snatched by people who distance themselves from God through disobedience (Eve and Adam, for example). God gives discernment to us as we grow ever closer in our friendship with him.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus also spoke of the need to set our hearts straight by praying for the most important things. We see this especially in Matthew 6 when he teaches his disciples the “Our Father” and when he instructs them:
What God most wants to give us is, in fact, his Kingdom. Christ wishes to spread his Kingdom—outward, from the hearts of believers where he reigns, to all mankind. It would do us so much good to often repeat the words passed down to us from devotion to the Sacred Heart:
“Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.”
The heart of Christ is the “hidden treasure,” the “pearl of a great price” in today’s Gospel. This is the treasure we must continually seek above all else. It is the overabundant joy for which we were created, the one thing that is worth our giving up all we have. It is a treasure that God wishes to give us for eternity, a treasure which no one can take away, a treasure that is never to be used for the sake of obtaining something else.
But how can we learn to trust so much in the existence of this “hidden treasure” that we’re willing to forgo the pleasures of the moment?
First, we must believe in the great love God has for us. Bizarre as it sounds (knowing our weaknesses and failings), God considers each of us to be his uniquely precious pearl. What more could the Father do to prove his love for us than giving us his only Son so that we may be reconciled with him and share in his eternal joy and splendor?
Second, we can develop this trust by asking for it and practicing it, by living according to St. Paul´s conviction in today’s Second Reading: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him …” (Rom 8:28).
When we share our sorrows and joys with Christ in the intimate heart to heart dialogue of prayer, we learn that his “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light.” The beauty of his heart draws us into an ever greater love, a love which seeks to imitate and respond to the desires of his heart. Our hearts then become more sensitive and synchronized with the way Jesus sees the world. In time, we may even be willing to follow Christ´s demands of loving others as he has loved us, of forgiving others (and even ourselves) so that Our Father in heaven may forgive us as well.