Sunday Sermon for July 30, 2023, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

In the first reading today, we hear about God speaking with Solomon and giving Solomon the opportunity to ask the Lord for anything he wanted.  We can see the intelligence and the charity of Solomon as he recognizes his own inability to govern the people of Israel, so he asks for understanding to be able to be a good king to the people.  God commends Solomon for not seeking something selfish; since he was seeking something that would allow him to serve the people, God blessed him with wisdom and understanding beyond what has been, or ever will be, given to anyone else.

Before going any further, what has already been said should make us stop and ponder what we would ask for if God gave us the opportunity to ask for anything.  Would we desire a long life, riches, or the life of an enemy?  Would our choice reflect charity and humility so as to help us serve God and neighbor better, or would it reflect pride and selfishness to help us get what we want?

The natural tendency of human persons, and therefore, the natural temptation in the spiritual life, is toward selfishness.  The goal of our Christian life is to overcome this selfishness and replace it with true charity.  We know that everything God does is pure charity; He wills only what is best for us.  Often, however, we do not see things as being for our good and, therefore, we try to control things in order to bring them in line with our way of thinking. 

St. Paul, however, writing to the Romans toward the end of his life, is able to look back at everything that had happened in the course of his life and state that “all things work for good for those who love God.”  Keep in mind that St. Paul was in prison while he was writing these words.  We also know from his second letter to the Corinthians that he was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and more.  But he recognized that God used all of these events in his life to purify him and, as he says in the second reading, to conform him to the image of Jesus.

Conformity to Christ is what our lives are supposed to be about.  Jesus never sinned and He did what He instructed us to do: love God and love neighbor.  Since love is the opposite of selfishness, this brings us back to the question raised earlier.  If we were given the opportunity to ask for anything, would we ask to love God with our whole heart, strength, and soul?  Would we ask to be conformed to Jesus Christ?  Before we would ever ask for such a thing, we would need to know that it is possible and we would need to want it.

Before we would want to be conformed to Jesus, we would need to know Him and love Him.  This is actually the very purpose of our creation: to know, love, and serve God.  God is a personal God, meaning He is not a force field or an imaginary being.  God is three Persons; God is love, God is truth, God is life.  Because He is a personal God, we are able to have a relationship with Him.  This is the only way to come to know and love Him.

How is this accomplished?  We need to seek Him hidden in the depths of our soul.  Like the buried treasure mentioned in the Gospel, we need to make it a priority to obtain the treasure.  Remember, Jesus told us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be.  Please understand, you are the treasure, you are the pearl of great price that Jesus came to find.  His heart is on you; He was willing to give everything to obtain that treasure.  Because you are His treasure, He has placed Himself within you (if you are in the state of grace).  So, now Jesus is the hidden treasure within your soul. 

So, you are the treasure of the Lord, therefore, He conformed Himself to you so that He could obtain you, His treasure.  If Jesus is your treasure, you will want to conform yourself to Him so that you can obtain Him, your treasure.  You can see that this treasure is not like gold or silver that we can own.  The divine treasure does not merely become ours like a material possession; rather, the divine treasure becomes ours when we become one with the Lord.  This is conformity to Christ.

Every other treasure we have will be left behind when we die.  This divine treasure will be ours for eternity.  There is nothing greater, nothing more valuable than this treasure.  That is what Jesus said about us; can we say that about Him?

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit