Gospel Reflection for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:44-52

Are you willing to give it all up?

I heard a priest the other day say, “you never see a U-Haul truck in a cemetery”.  He had a good point. You can’t take it with you, nor do you need to do so. We worry so much in this modern world about material wealth. You have to have the highest paying job, the nicest home, the newest car with all the extras… What do we think this is actually going to do for us? Make us happy? Doubtful. Give us eternal happiness? Not one bit. Don’t get me wrong, I like my stuff as much as the next guy, I try to do better at my job, to make more money, to provide the best that I can for my family… but it isn’t going to get me to heaven. And in fact, focusing on it too much (or maybe even at all) is going to hinder my journey to my heavenly home.  But, we are human, we are competitive by nature, and most of us want it all!

But what is it really all worth in the end? Zilch, zero, nada, nothing. The real value at the end of our lives is our home in heaven. This is what Jesus is conveying to us in the parables this week. The Kingdom of Heaven is the ultimate goal for us all. It is the most valuable thing we will ever attain, and we should do everything we can to attain it. It is the Pearl of Great Price for us.

The two parables this week also give some insight into those whom God calls to know him. In the Parable of the Pearl, we see the merchant who was actively seeking to find something of such value. This could be akin to the many people today who are desperately searching to find answers, faith, and truth. They may be much like the merchant, and immediately divest themselves of everything they hold dear to come closer to the truth of Christ.  But in the parable before the pearl, the man “stumbles upon” the field. He was not seeking the wealth it contained. But when he encounters it and recognizes it, he gives up all that he has for its treasure. Some of us come to faith in Christ not through seeking, but by being found by Him. Either way, God’s love for us all, his grace and mercy for us, is calling us all, seeker and “stumbler” to come Him.

So how much are we willing to give up for the Pearl of Great Price – for heaven? How much have you given, how much will you yet give?  Would you get rid of every comfort that you have in this world, in order to be prepared for the next? Would you be willing to sacrifice all that you have to enter into the kingdom of God?

I think back on the stories of Mother Theresa and her life and I feel like I’m not at all worthy to use the name Christian some days. According to her spiritual director, Mother Theresa, a woman who had already materially given up everything in life, and surrounded herself with the lowliest of mankind, often herself going without food and adequate care also lacked the feeling of the presence of the Divine in her life. Let me say that again- Mother Theresa, for decades before her death, did not feel the Joy of the presence of God – YET SHE KEPT HER FAITH.   You read that correctly. This woman, of the highest faith, who always found smiles and laughter to give, who had visions of Christ in her early years of ministry, had a “dark night of the soul” for nearly 50 years.

To quote Mother Theresa in a letter to her Spiritual Director:

“In the darkness… Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me?… I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer… Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul… I am told God lives in me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

She really felt abandoned by God, but she knew deep down that she wasn’t and she kept pressing on, kept her faith, and never lost it.

Talk about giving up everything! Not only did she face material poverty, but in her own spiritual life as well. Could you give up everything like Mother Theresa did? I’m not certain that I could. I hope so…

We have encountered the Pearl of Great Price. We have heard of it in the gospels, we have experienced a part of it in the Mass. But are we willing to give it all up for the Kingdom?


Andy Pitts is the Pastoral Coordinator for the Society of St. Gregory the Great, a community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, in Mobile, AL, as well as a Deacon Candidate for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He has worked professionally and volunteered for nearly two decades as a youth minister, pastoral assistant, and catechist. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of South Alabama and an M.S.-MIS from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.