Today's Readings can be found: [HERE]
In our modern society, it’s very easy to pursue a variety of interests and hobbies, particularly with the internet as a resource. We can learn a lot using YouTube. While skills do require repeated practice, guidance is plentiful online.
Now, when someone pursues a breadth of interests, there’s the potential of awakening a passion for one thing, that that person might enjoy doing for the rest of his or her life. That’s perhaps the hope of many parents who enroll their children in various sports or activities.
But dividing one’s attention across a spectrum of interests can also have the opposite effect. One can become addicted to novelty, or the excitement of newness; of moving on from one interest to another. And it comes at the expense of expertise and focus in a single specialization.
There’s a book called, Essentialism, which has an interesting premise. The author studied a number of different businesses, which were successful up to a certain point; and then they began to falter.
The author suggests that, ironically, the leading cause to failure in these businesses was their success. When they were small, they were forced to focus their resources behind a single effort. But with success came new opportunities, which led to efforts that spread their resources too thin, making them vulnerable to smaller but more focused competitors.
In our gospel today, we hear Jesus tell his disciples: “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. 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.”
In each of these examples, we find men willing and able to go all in. Rather than nickel-and-dime their wealth away across many different interests, they used everything at their disposal to acquire the one thing that mattered to them.
In the minds of the treasure hunter and pearl merchant, all of their possessions only had value to them to the degree that they could be used as currency to obtain the true object of their desire. Everything else only had temporary value to them.
That capacity of going all in is part of the genius of humanity. Leonardo De Vinci specialized in art, despite his many interests. Michelangelo is remembered for his painting and sculpture, despite his talents in other areas. Einstein is remembered for his contribution to physics; not for his poetry.
What’s true for these giants of history is especially true for the rest of us. When we spread ourselves too thin across a spectrum of interests, we turn our backs on that very specific gift of man: the ability to put all of our resources behind a single activity.
Jesus encourages us to go all in for the Kingdom of God. It’s a recurring theme in his teachings. Jesus praised a poor widow who put in two small coins into the Temple treasury. He praised her because she went all in. She gave all she had; she held nothing back. To the rich young man, Jesus said: “sell all that you have and give the money to the poor; then come and follow me”. Jesus was calling him to go all in.
Even our love for other persons shouldn’t detract from our love for Christ. Jesus told his disciples that anyone who loves mother or father, son or daughter, more than him is not worthy of him. Our absolute loyalty has only room for one master. “No one can serve two masters,” says the Lord. “He will either love one and hate the other; or hate the one and love the other”.
These might sound like challenging teachings, but the truth is that we would welcome these sacrifices with joy, if our hearts were in the right place. It was with joy that the treasure hunter sold all that he had to buy that field. It was with joy that the merchant exchanged all of his possessions for that single pearl.
That joy came from being experts in their field. That’s how they were able to discover the treasure and the pearl, immediately recognize their value, and sacrifice all things with joy for the sake of their passion.
As Christians, if we’re not willing—yet—to go all in for the Kingdom of Heaven, it may be because we are not yet experts in our field. We’re not yet “experts” at discipleship. Today, a number of you are receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and consecrate you with a specific gift that you can offer for the building up of God’s kingdom.
Perhaps you might already have a sense of what that gift might be; perhaps not. The challenge you face now as disciples is discovering and developing that gift—also known as a charism—and to mobilizing all your resources into deploying that gift for God’s glory. That’s what it means to go all in for the kingdom of heaven.
In this Mass, may our Lord inspire within us true passion for the faith which we profess, the zeal to be true experts at discipleship, and the real desire to sacrifice all things with joy for the Kingdom of Heaven.