The readings for this Sunday can be found here.
The collect prayer for this Sunday includes the petition: “grant that…we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.” During this time of summer, it seems a particularly apt prayer. Many of us find ourselves surrounded by good things, from ball games to beach days, soaking in the sunshine and perhaps a little extra social time with family and friends. While we often hear (and need to hear) the message of embracing the cross and offering our sufferings, sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate and use good things in a way that helps us to hold fast to those things that endure forever.
In fact, it is noteworthy that in today’s gospel reading from Matthew, we hear the Kingdom of God likened to good things that pass, such as a pearl of great price or a treasure in a field or even a catch of good (and bad) fish. Jesus’s use of these images acknowledges the good things for which sacrifices make sense, and the images provide a way to take our understanding of things of earth to those of heaven; our sight is lifted from treasures and pearls found here on earth to the Kingdom of God.
But of course, we can get distracted by our earthly pursuits, and in this season of Ordinary Time, where we count the weeks of the liturgical year, with some interruptions for notable saints, but no seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter, we may find we need to renew our efforts to hold fast to those things that endure. It can be easy to get distracted by the delights we encounter and find ourselves seeking perpetual indulgence and enjoyment. The key to fighting this seems to be found in Solomon’s prayer in the first reading for wisdom, or an understanding heart. With wisdom, we find that our heart can find joy and glorify God in the good things that pass because we know they are only a foretaste of what lies in wait for us.
The famous passage from Romans 8:28 also speaks to this truth: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” This is a perspective of wisdom, trusting that the long, beautiful, relaxing days at the beach, and also the difficult and stressful days of work and family life both work for good when we love God. In one family story I heard, a father was known to repeat this passage from Romans in times of difficulty, such that a younger child asked an older sibling, “What does it mean when Dad says that line?” And the older sibling said, “It means things are REALLY BAD.” But if we can see where it is a helpful reminder in times of trouble, hopefully we can also remember that it is also useful when we get to experience some of the good things of life. All things work for good for those who love God. Let’s keep this in mind as we hold fast even now to the glorious days of summer.