Reflection on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 26, 2020
Finding my first best
Joanne R. Bantang
Ministry of Lectors and Commentators
When searching for a valuable treasure, one will leave behind all that he has to have it.
I have always wanted to write about my love story but I did not imagine that it would find its way here, as a means for reflecting on this Sunday’s gospel (Mt 13:44-52).
One of the more important decisions a person has to make is selecting a spouse who will be a worthy partner in raising a family; in my case, a Catholic family. Similar to how the merchant in the Gospel searched for his fine pearl and how the fish are sorted as either good or bad, like many women, I searched among friends and acquaintances and sacrificed some things to get to where I am now, with my first best. I appreciate how Solomon in the First Reading (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12) requested a heart that is wise and understanding instead of riches or long life. The choices one makes can really be a source of happiness and one needs wisdom to make that right decision.
Even at a young age, I vowed that I would not have a religiously mixed household. I grew up in a small town where three churches were all lined up in one street and you could see family members, especially during Sunday, go their separate ways and attend their respective church services. Though I commend them for their piety in their respective beliefs, it would have been too heartbreaking for me. I imagine complexities such as decisions regarding children’s baptism, the way they are raised, or the values that a family will subscribe to. As such, I turned down the very few suitors who were not Catholics. I was sent to a Catholic high school one town away; I suspect one of the reasons was that my parents wanted me to have more Catholic peers. Indeed, my first boyfriend was a high school classmate from a respected Catholic family. My dream of a Catholic family was somewhat secured. But alas, God had a different plan! Age and experience allowed me the maturity to assess my relationship better. Having the same faith is not a guarantee that couples have the same value system and although we are both good individuals, I realized that we are just each other’s second best.
When I eventually found a potential for my first best, God gave me a curveball as he was an Aglipayan who had Protestant bible studies in his college days. And yet, like the characters in the Gospel who found their treasure and sold all that they had to acquire their treasure, I left three years of friendship and six years of a relatively stable relationship to have my own treasure. My first best also had to leave behind his family’s religion to search for God’s truth in the Catholic Church. Our first dates included debates on Marian theology, the Pope’s infallibility, and the merits of the sacrament of confession to name a few. His conversion was a long journey; however, I think the passage from the Letter of Saint Paul in the Second Reading (Rom 8:28-30) reminding us that “[w]e know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28) resonates with our experience. Thus, after five years, on the Easter Vigil of 2005 and two months before our wedding, he was baptized a Catholic in this Parish. Up to this day, he is still learning about God and our faith and it truly helps us in the daily trials of a Catholic family life.
In essence, my search for my first best is only an analogy of how a person is willing to sell his possessions to have his treasure. My husband’s search, on the other hand, is akin to the Gospel’s message that God or the Kingdom of Heaven is found through a diligent search and that this discovery of the beauty, value, or glory of God is what life must be about. Though we know that we may not fully ‘find’ God, our little efforts can help us to be drawn closer to a life with God in our center.
How about you? How much are you willing to sell or to let go in order to search for God or his Kingdom? How diligent are you in your search for God? Let us pray for our continued search for God and that the Holy Spirit fill us with zeal and hope in our earthly journey.