Gospel Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Devil’s Trap (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)

There are still a number of treasure hunters these days. Some even spend a lot of money to finance expeditions and excavations for a so-called hidden treasure. A priest from a remote province shared with me that a small group of treasure hunters approached him and told him that their map showed definite directions leading to a spot within his church premises where there was a hidden treasure. They offered the priest a share of the treasure for his parish projects in case treasure was found. But the priest disagreed. He argued that the excavations would cause environmental effects to the community. The offer was tempting, but the priest knew and felt that the environment was more valuable compared to what the treasure hunters speculated to be a hidden treasure.

Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price which makes a man sell everything in order to acquire it. This means that God‘s kingdom is the absolute and ultimate goal one should aspire for in life. Everything in this world is relative. It is the kingdom of God that should matter most in our life. Nothing more, nothing less!

However, people today seem to have hidden treasures or pearls of great price other than God‘s kingdom. Some are wealth builders to the extent that their priority occupation is the accumulation of money. Others are workaholics who spend more time in the office in order to get the next promotion. These people show that they are centered more on what can give them a comfortable sense of security rather than God. In so doing, they lose sight of what they really need, their only treasure: God and His Kingdom.

During a clergy retreat, a bishop shared this story with us. It revealed how the devil strategically lures us to his kingdom.

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, He said, “We can‟t keep them from reading their bibles and knowing the truth. We can‟t even keep them from conservative values. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their conservatives lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can‟t gain that experience in Jesus Christ.”

This is what I want you to do, angels: “Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout the day!”

How shall we do this?” shouted his angels.

Satan said: “Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince the wives to go to work and the husbands to work 6 to 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children, as their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work. Overstimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio, or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, the VCR and their CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional material offering free products, services and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so husbands will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives. Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night. Give them headaches too! If they don’t give their husbands the love they need, they will now begin to look elsewhere. That will fragment their families quickly! Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won’t talk about His resurrection and power over sin and death. Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences. Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

“It will work! It will work!” said the evil angels.

It was quite a plan!

The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there, having little time for their God or their families, having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives.

Has Satan lured you to his kingdom? Jesus is our true treasure and pearl of great price. Beware of the devil‘s trap!

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