FIRST THINGS FIRST
HOMILY OF THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Benedict Ntol Atep
Readings: 1 Kings 3, 5:7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13: 44-52
Our readings today reveal to us the secrets of the Kingdom of God. If the Lord were to visit you today and ask that you request three things, as He did to young King Solomon, what would they be? Long life or prosperity or the life of your enemies?
The theme of today’s readings is about taking care of “FIRST THINGS FIRST.” There are TEN Prayers that God always says YES TO: (1) God, show me that you exist; (2) God, please help me to help someone in need; (3) God, outdo me in generosity; (4) God, get me through this suffering; (5) God, forgive me (6) God, give me peace; (7) God, I am afraid, give me courage; (8) God, give me wisdom and discernment (9) “God, Please bring some good out of this bad situation”; (10) “God, please lead me to my destiny.” Among the ten prayers that God always answers instantly, the topmost is “God, please give me wisdom and discernment.” Wisdom means giving priority to first things first. It is about discovering and possessing the most valuable treasure. The most valuable treasure in life is GOD AND HIS WAYS.
The first reading presents young king Solomon employing the tool of prayer to satisfy “FIRST THINGS FIRST.” He does so by seeking the wisdom of God to assist him to rule the people of Israel according to the will of God. The responsorial psalm calls us to embrace the vocation of obedience to the commands of God. In the second reading St. Paul teaches that our supreme goal in life is to live according to the purpose of God for us.
In the gospel, Jesus states that our primary assignment in life is to consciously search for God. He uses three mini parables to emphasize the fact that if you wish to be happy, go, sell what you have and buy the most valuable treasure in life. The most valuable treasure in life is gaining entrance into the kingdom of God and living according to its rules.
Friends in Christ, sometimes we often think we have the proper perspective about life when in fact we are way off many times. We have become so preoccupied today with many things that cannot offer us peace, joy and love. In short many of us are multitasking in order to survive instead of to live. Many times we are even ashamed to associate with things that will last, precisely things of eternal value.
My hypothesis since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic is this: COVID-19 is a gift and a blessing. Why am I sounding strange? Our readings today challenge us to rethink what we should price in life as essentials. COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that in life there are needs and wants. For instance there is a difference between living in a decent house where we enjoy the basic amenities of life and living in a luxurious house which becomes a want. COVID-19 challenges all our excessive travels and movements, shopping and entertainment, clothing and accumulation of goods like cars and houses. Life and its wonderful opportunities are sometimes like a gift of a new car. What is most important for us as receivers of such a gift is not how to decorate it further, but how to drive it so well that we not only avoid problems but also have the best service from it.
Jesus understands how many of us have the proclivity to get it wrong in our search for happiness. Especially when it comes to things that are spiritual and particularly God and His ways. So he told a few parables. He said the kingdom of heaven is like: A Hidden Treasure, a Pearl of Great Price and a net which is thrown into the sea and to gather fishes of every kind.
Dear friends in Christ, did you know that before God laid the plan and foundation of the world He knew you and had ordained you for some purpose and mission? The Word of God says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4).
The questions are: Have you discovered God as the hidden treasure of your life? Are you living according to the plans of God for you? Are you fulfilling the purpose of God creating and redeeming you? Friends in Christ, we live in societies that are driven by insurance policies. People insure all kinds of things. In some countries, it is a kind of obsession. For instance, there is even insurance against bad weather during vacations. The most important aspect of insurance is that of life. But let’s reflect for a minute, what use is this insurance and against what does it insure us? Against death? Of course not! It ensures that, in case of death, someone receives an indemnity.
Friends in Christ, the real life insurance has been offered to us by Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is life insurance against death. What type of death? Temporal and Eternal deaths! Jesus says we should search for the kingdom of God that is the most essential good in life. He says, “Seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matt. 6:33). He also says, “Whoever believes in me, even though he die, shall live.”
All we need to do in order to benefit from the Kingdom of God is to uncover it and buy it for our good. Just like the issue of insurance, we need to pay our premium in order to benefit from it. Solomon in the first reading got it right. He prioritized the goal of life: Seeking God first.
We have a lot of lessons to take home. First things first calls us to live every moment in view of discovering and cultivating the true treasure of life. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, social status or worldly pleasures. St. Ignatius of Loyola says “Human beings are created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing these they save their souls.” Jesus Christ says “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul or what can one give in exchange of his life” (Matt. 16:26).
We are not only to discover and cultivate the true treasure of Life – God, but we need to also pay special attention on how to sustain our relationship with God. We can do so by total obedience to the will of God, by seeking the daily guidance of his Holy Spirit, by daily prayer, by listening to him in our meditative reading of the Bible, and by embracing the sacraments especially reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
God bless you!