Baseball was my favorite sport when I was a kid.
Growing up on a farm, we had a very large yard that was very good for all kinds of games. I remember playing baseball all the time in the summer. Our bases were not your typical white squares. I’m pretty sure first base was an old well down by the horse corral. Second base was in the middle of the yard, which we would mark with anything we could find. Third base was an outdoor water pump up toward the house. Home base was just a dirt spot where grass refused to grow since we played baseball there so much.Baseball topped probably everything for me. It may have taken second place only to food once in a while. My parents knew that it was my favorite and would use it to trick me into doing things or to discipline me.
I remember one evening after dinner, I did not want to help with the dishes and so suddenly had a stomach ache, which I began to complain about. My dad was not too amused, but he asked if I wanted to play baseball instead. Suddenly the stomach ache was gone and I excitedly said “Yes!” So he had everyone go get all their baseball stuff, we were all going to go play. I’m sure some of the kids were excited, while others were probably rolling their eyes. No sooner had we gotten all the bats and gloves, stepped out onto the porch and walked down the steps, when dad turned to me and said, “now wait a minute, if you can play baseball, then you certainly can wash the dishes. Come on, back inside.” I was so confused, but I suppose a 7 or 8 year old would be. It dawned on me much later that he was being tricksy the whole time.
He was teaching me an important lesson though. I cannot just play all day, I have to help out even when I do not feel like it. Thinking back on this so many years later, I can see that my priorities were far from perfect. Again, I was 7, but nevertheless, my pearl of great price was a sport. In the Gospel this weekend the Lord tells us “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 he has and buys that field. Again, 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 13:44-46). The Lord reminds us in this way that His kingdom and His life that he offers us is worth everything that we have and all that we are. He wants our whole lives to belong to Him. I think that so often we think that if we give everything over to the Lord, we will have nothing left for ourselves. Actually with Him we have everything we need and He will give us what our hearts really long for.
In the first reading from this Sunday we hear from 1 Kings, Solomon, who has just become the king of Israel came before the Lord and asked Him, “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give you servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9).
Because Solomon did not ask the Lord for riches, or long life, or really anything for himself, the Lord blessed Him and gave him what he asked for and much much more. He said to Solomon in reply, “Because you have asked for this— not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right— I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one equal to you. In addition, I give you what you have not asked for, such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like. And if you follow me by keeping my statutes and commandments, as your father David did, I will give you long a life also” (1 Kings 3:10-15).
It becomes clear that Solomon was pure in his motives and wanted to fulfill his duties as king, which the Lord had given to Him, to the full, even beyond what he thought himself capable of. Instead of being self-serving, He sought after what the Lord would certainly want for Him. The gift of understanding was worth more to Him than all the trappings that come with royal life. It was his pearl of great price. Because he sought it and it was truly what the Lord wanted for Him, not only did He receive it, but also, much more blessing that he had not asked for.
In my own life I know the Lord’s goodness to be so. He has within himself infinite life, love, goodness, joy, blessings, truth, peace, etc., which means he has quite a bit to spare. Moreover, He wants to share it all with us. He shows us this by giving his life completely out of love for us on the Cross. In light of all this, and considering that I haven’t played baseball in almost a decade, I would say it is probably better to learn early what my priorities should be and to search true pearls of great price.
I think we seek after things that are so cheap and empty sometimes, while the Lord wants to give us fine pearls, representative of himself. When we seek Him, what does He tell us? “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). The Lord is our Pearl of greatest price, worth everything I have and am, worth my whole life and more. When I give it all to Him, and seek to follow Him, He blesses me beyond anything I could have thought possible, not necessarily with material things, so much as with blessings and fullness of the heart. Seek Him and you will have your pearl.