“.....the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” ~ Matthew 13:46
Beautiful imagery highlights today’s short but indelible Gospel Passage (Matthew 13:44-46) wherein Jesus seeks to shed like on the glorious and inexplicable splendor of the heavenly kingdom. In tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 13:47-53) Jesus elaborates further upon his Father’s Kingdom, likening it to a “net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind” going on to point out the harsh reality that is judgement day, wherein what is good will be put into buckets while what is bad will be “thrown away.”
These similes go a long way in helping us to reflect greater upon the mystery that is heaven, the place where “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The merchant in today’s Gospel resembles a participant in the World Series of Poker, essentially shoving all of his chips into the center of the table and dramatically going “all in” for Heaven. We too must do the same. Without a strong and ardent desire to one day be in Heaven, we place ourselves in dire risk of never arriving there, for as we know, small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).
Saint Ignatius, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, was a man who possessed an ardent and fervent desire for heaven. He was a man of privilege who turned away from the world and towards God. Devotees of Saint Ignatius are known to say the following prayer, one that I recite at daily mass during the offertory:
“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of accordingly to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough and desire nothing more.”
Saint Ignatius knew that he first had to give of himself, and in gratitude and submission he did so. He then sought and prayed for God’s love and grace, for he knew that these were the true crown jewels to be pursued, not the fleeting riches of this world. He knew God’s love and grace would transform him profoundly, and thus place him on the road to heavenly and eternal glory.
“Do what makes you happy” is a very popular adage suddenly and relentlessly making the rounds these days, whether it be espoused by one of any number of self-help experts, on Social Media, on T-Shirts, coffee mugs and elsewhere. If we were instead to do that which makes us Holy, we would in fact find ourselves already living in the heavenly kingdom, for as Jesus teaches us, the kingdom of God is indeed at hand (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, etc). Not only that, the true happiness we seek that so oftentimes seems all too elusive would essentially fall right into our laps.
We must pray for a more ardent desire for heaven, especially in a world which encourages us to pursue a false “heaven on Earth” by way of wealth, influence, material possessions, extravagance and general excess.
“Lord, I confess I don’t often long for heaven. I’m a creature of this world and crave worldly things, not heavenly ones. I ask that you would grow within me a greater desire for heaven. Help me to not be satisfied with the things of this world, but long for closeness with you and the perfection of eternity in your presence. Lord, thank you for the hope of heaven and the indescribable joy we will encounter when we get there” ~ Amen.