Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
Imagine you get a blank cheque from the world’s richest man and he tells you that you can fill in any amount you so desire; how much will you fill in? Or imagine you are taken to Shoprite and told to pick anything you want, quantity not being an issue; what will you pick? I am very certain your mind is doing a marathon now, and you may be feeling lost at the thought of such possibilities. It is going to be a tough choice to make really, as a million thoughts will flash through your mind in seconds. These scenarios I have painted are meant to help us understand fully, what Solomon was faced with as we heard in our first reading when God told him, “Ask what I shall give you.” Imagine the owner of the whole universe telling you to ask anything and it shall be yours! It was a tough decision, a tough choice for Solomon to make; it was not as simple as it is when we read about it today.
Indeed, life is full of choices. Some are simple choices, some are tough, yet, we must choose. And indeed, at every step of the way through life, we are making choices, either actively or passively. The parables of Jesus in today’s gospel reading also present us with the reality of making choices. Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a field of treasure and a pearl of great value that people found. They had to choose between taking the risk of selling all they owned to lay hands on those treasures or keeping their resources and forfeiting the treasures. According to Jesus’ parable, they chose to let go of all in order to possess the rich treasure of the kingdom of God. In the third parable of the dragnet in the gospel reading, Jesus says at the end of time, just as fishermen choose the good fishes and throw away the bad ones, so will God separate the righteous from the unrighteous. From today’s liturgy of the Word, we shall draw two lessons for our reflection.
- Whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell is our choice
In the parables of Jesus, he said the kingdom of heaven is like a field of great treasure and like a pearl of great value. Those who found it had to choose whether to pay the price and possess it or not. Here therefore, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is a choice that we have to make, but a choice that comes at a price, and only those who choose to pay the price can have possession of it.
The price we have to pay are the things we have to give up that, clinging to them will prevent us from gaining entrance to that kingdom. Due to the eternal value of that kingdom, no price is too great to pay for it, so it will be foolish to choose against paying the price. And Jesus warns, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” (Mk 8:36).
If we can make sacrifices for earthly, temporal things and comfort, we should be more willing and ready to make sacrifices for our eternity. Ultimately however, the choice is ours! Those who choose to pay the price shall inherit the treasure of eternal life in heaven; those who choose otherwise shall have to bear the pain of eternal damnation in hell. But as for God, he has placed before us life and death, blessings and curses, and he has cautioned and advised us to choose life (cf. Deut 30:19). What then will your choice be?
- At the end of time, God will choose who enters heaven or not
In the third parable in our gospel reading (the parable of the dragnet), Jesus says as fishermen separate the good fish from the bad, so shall God separate the righteous people from evil people at the end of time. He repeats a similar point in the parable of the last judgment when he said God shall separate people as shepherds separate goats from sheep (cf. Mat 25:31-46). In last week’s gospel reading about the weeds and wheat, we also read that the reapers shall separate the wheat from the weeds. All these are about choices – choosing the good from the bad.
There is however, an interesting side to this choice that God will make: we are the ones who will make the choice for God; he shall only give us the reward of the choices that we have made during our lifetime. As God clearly states through the prophet Ezekiel, he “has no pleasure in the death of a sinner but would rather see him turn from his evil ways and live” (cf. Ezk 33:11). So if we choose to do good while we live here on earth, God shall choose us like the good fish, the sheep and the wheat. If however, our choices here on earth are evil, sinful choices, then we shall be cast out as the bad fish, the goats and the weeds. And Jesus says “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” at that time, meaning that there will be painful regrets. But then, it will be too late to make amends.
We must always keep in mind therefore, that day by day, we are making choices for heaven or for hell, and at the end of time, God shall crown us with the reward of the choices we have made. In the final analysis, whether we spend eternity in heaven or in hell shall be all about the choices we make, hence, let us choose wisely. We pray for the grace to always make the right choices; and may God also grant us the courage to make the necessary sacrifices needed to win us eternal life in heaven. Amen