Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"Eureka!", Archimedes is said to have shouted as he stepped into his bathtub and realized a way of weighing objects using water. From then on, the term "eureka" (Greek for "I have found it") has come to express the joy of discovery. It was the cry of the '49'ers panhandling gold in the streams of California. It was the cry of untold numbers of scientists who stumbled upon the secrets of the natural world. It was the cry of doctors who, after many years of failure and frustration, finally discovered cures for diseases. "Eureka" expresses the elation we experience when we attain a long-awaited goal or the solution to an elusive problem.

In this weekend's first reading (1 Kgs 3:5-12), King Solomon has a eureka moment. God is offering him whatever he wants - wealth, power and lands. But Solomon realizes that all these things are worthless if he lacks wisdom. He realizes that God has anointed him as king so that he may rule justly over the chosen people. Rather than accumulate riches to impress others and gratify his pride, he chooses wisdom so that he may please God by ruling justly. Wisdom will help him accomplish God's more than wealth and power can. God not only answers his prayer, but also grants him in abundance the wealth and power he did not ask for. With wisdom guiding him, Solomon can now use these riches to a good purpose.

In this year dedicated by the Holy Father to Saint Paul, we also remember the dramatic eureka moment the apostle to the gentiles experienced on the road to Damascus. The Risen Lord appears to him, blinding his eyes with the radiance of his glory but giving vision to his soul so that he might recognize the Light of the World. Paul would come to write that he considers all things as garbage in the light of the knowledge and power which comes from the gospel. In this weekend's second reading (Rom 8: 28-30), Paul reflects on how God makes everything work for the good for those who have been called to discover the plan of God revealed in Jesus.

Finally, Jesus in the gospel (Mt 13:44-46) likens the kingdom of God to a treasure which is happened upon by accident and a pearl which a man finally discovers after much searching. Shouting "eureka", these men sell everything to attain the treasure. The kingdom of God is a joyful discovery, a wonder to the one who stumbles upon it. It makes everything else we may have been searching for or clinging to seem empty and useless. Any follower of Jesus will recognize how this works. Even when we are baptized as infants and raised in the faith, a moment comes when it finally all makes sense. It could be a moment of deep prayer or something we read or hear that gives us insight into what our faith means for our life. It was a moment of joy - a eureka moment - as we discovered the deep, personal love God has for us and his presence and action in our lives. At that moment, we made a more conscious decision to follow Jesus - we attained the treasure at the cost of putting Jesus, rather than ourselves, at the center of our lives.

Of course, that wouldn't be the end of it. That big eureka moment would be filled with other eureka moments in which we are called to recognize the joy of God's presence in our lives and to give more of ourselves in his service. As the men in the parable find, the eureka moment comes at a cost. It requires us to part with something. But, it is done with great joy because we are getting a bargain - giving up something earthly and material for the everlasting life of heaven.

The opening prayer at Mass this Sunday sums it up perfectly:

God, our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.