If you’re anything like me, it doesn’t take much to get distracted during Mass. My mind starts to race on a million unrelated and unimportant things, the sound system starts to act up, or all of a sudden I start to feel rrrreeeeaallllyyyy sleepy… (and none of that even mention my five kids aged 1-10 years old sitting with me in my pew who are also very good at distracting me.)
Maybe you’re better at tuning out the distractions than I am, and maybe you’re not. But either way, one of the simple things you can do to tune in for Mass is to spend a few minutes ahead of time with the readings. This Sunday they are 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; and Matthew 13:44-52. You can look them up in your own Bible or read them on the USCCB website.
The tension between staying focused and getting distracted is a good lens through which to see the readings this week.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus focuses on three different images for the Kingdom of God: a treasure, a pearl, and a dragnet. The treasure and the pearl are presented in the same way: the one who sees the value of the Kingdom will hold nothing back to get it. The dragnet, on the other hand, is presented as more of a warning that not everyone will inherit the kingdom. Similarly to the Gospel from last Sunday, there is to be a separation between those who get it and those who don’t – between those who stay focused on the Kingdom (the prized catch) and those who get distracted (those who are tossed back.)
With that in mind, read the first reading. God appears in a dream to the newly installed King of Israel, Solomon, and says ask whatever you want, and I’ll give it to you. Just imagine the possibilities! It would be awfully tempting to get distracted by the chance for a new car, a trip to Disneyland, to help the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup, (or to pray for something more global like world peace or an end to poverty.) Instead, Solomon asked for what he felt he needed the most to accomplish His mission: God’s help to discern how to rule fairly and with moral integrity. So God granted him a gift of wisdom unparalleled anywhere else in the Bible.
If you look at the Gospel and the first reading side by side, what we see is an invitation. As in the story of Solomon, God is approaching us and asking us what He can do for us – and in response to our hearts desire, He is presenting us the Kingdom of God. He also challenges us to spare nothing in our quest to get it, reminding us that there is no material thing, no relationship, and no experience that will be worth more to us in the end than what He has prepared for each of us in His Kingdom. We need to focus and refocus ourselves on this treasure/pearl each and every day… and be aware of those things which draw us away from Him.
It’s a daunting task, no question. It is however the point of all Christian life: no matter our vocation or state in life, no matter the blessings or challenges placed in our path, and no matter whom we are asked to share this life with, the end goal is always Heaven.
That sounds hard, though, and certainly beyond our own abilities – this is, after all, what Jesus’ death was all about… helping us to accomplish what we can’t do on our own.
Thankfully, while we are asked to put everything into this mission of attaining the Kingdom – heart, soul, mind, and strength – St. Paul is there to remind us that it’s not all about us. Not only have we been made for Heaven (we are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ) – but the second reading reminds us that God conspires everything in our lives and beyond them to work to get us there:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28
Stay focused… not just on the readings this Sunday, but on the goal. And watch how God conspires the blessings and the struggles in your life to help you reach the purpose for which you have been called: the Kingdom of God.