“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
This weekend’s gospel reading, filled with parables, paints a strikingly clear picture of what one can expect on their journey to the kingdom of heaven. We love how Jesus uses stories to drive home or emphasize what he wants us to hear, even going so far as to say, “Do you understand all these things?”. As parents of small children, this sounds so familiar, as we’ll sometimes (ok lots of times) say to them after trying to make an important, non-negotiable point…”Did you hear me?! What did I just say?”.
Throughout these parables, Jesus warns us that there are consequences to not fully pursuing the kingdom of heaven. No one escapes the final outcome and there are only two options. Whoa. Let that sink in for a minute. However, Jesus doesn’t just drop this frightening truth bomb and then walk away. He teaches us how to become righteous and how to spend eternity with him. Twice, Jesus mentions a character who “sells all that he has” in pursuit of something greater.
Being familiar with these readings for most of our lives, we never felt like we had an experience where we could connect with this greater pursuit or “sold all that we had” until just recently. We served at neighboring parishes (Adam at one parish full time and Lori at another parish full time) in the same town for many years. Our family was growing, our ministry was growing, and we were growing personally, but one day we woke up and realized that it could be better. Better because even though we had many blessings we were grateful for, our ministry was thriving and making a difference in people’s lives, we were near family, and had good friends, deep down we knew it wasn’t enough. We knew that we were comfortable and weren’t fully seeking all that God had in store for us and our family. We weren’t allowing God to use us to our fullest. And…here’s the part that’s difficult to admit…we weren’t fully becoming his disciples and we were wasting time, going through the motions, not truly leading ourselves and others to the kingdom of heaven. We knew about that pearl of great price and that treasure, but we weren’t giving all that we had to attain it.
So what did we do? Well, we didn’t literally sell all that we had, but through prayer and discernment we made the decision to uproot and move an hour away to a parish where we could serve together and attend Mass together as family. We sacrificed the comfort of living near family, the stability of well established friendships, good schools for our children, and a life we’d built there. The process was painful and heartbreaking, and our new journey has not been simple or perfect in any way. BUT, we know without a doubt that by being open to God’s guidance and actively pursuing this change in our lives, we are truly being challenged everyday to strive for the kingdom of heaven.
As you reflect upon the readings for this weekend, especially the gospel reading, we invite and encourage you to search your heart, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the areas of your life that you need to “sell” or abandon to more fully pursue the kingdom of heaven.