21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: What will it take, Lord?

A few days ago, my son and I were talking about Pokémon cards – he is obsessed. I have been using earning cards as a reward and so this morning I told him that there was a new way he could earn Pokémon cards – he had to get a certain amount of stickers in his daily take home folder. I admit, I am not above bribery for good behavior… at least for now. He was sitting in his car seat shuffling through the six or so cards he currently owns, and considering what I said he had to do to add to his collection. “I can do that,” he said.

“Mom, do you like Pokémon?” he asked me sincerely. “I guess, I don’t know much about it,” I replied. He told me I could have one of his cards (it happened to be the one he liked the least, but still… generous). Then, he said I could also earn some more. Intrigued, I asked “But, honey, what exactly do I have to do to earn Pokémon cards?” He thought hard for a few moments, and then gave me the following list: 

  1. If you make my brothers and I go to church even if we don’t want to go, you can earn a Pokémon card. 
  2. If daddy forgets to do something like turn on the sprinklers and you go ahead and do it for him, you can earn a Pokémon card. 
  3. If you slow down and really teach me something like how to tie my shoes, you can earn a Pokémon card. 
  4. If you really listen to me when I am in trouble but I am telling you I did nothing wrong, you can earn a Pokémon card.

What I need to do to earn a Pokémon card turned out to be a deeper question than I thought. I was just casually asking but my son was sincerely returning with answers I did not expect. And they were difficult, challenging answers… ones I really had to think about. Was I willing to do the things on this list to earn a Pokémon card? A card I still know little to nothing about? I mean, really… what’s the benefit of seeking out a reward I know nothing about? 

In today’s Gospel, someone asks Jesus if only a few will be saved… and perhaps buried in that question was the one several had been asking – what exactly do they need to do to enter the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this person is asking as casually as I was asking my son about Pokémon. Perhaps they knew as little about the place they wanted to go as I did about the cards. And perhaps, they were not prepared for the answers that required them to do more than they thought for this thing of which they had no clear picture.

There was something beneath my son’s answers that really struck me that morning. I heard him saying that he wanted me to be his role model, he wanted me to challenge him, he wanted me to be generous, and he wanted me to really listen to him. I heard him saying above all that he wanted my time and attention. 

Isn’t Jesus asking the same of us in this Gospel? Our time and attention? He is saying that yes! We do have to earn the Pokémon cards, but maybe not in the way we imagined. 

May we all have an opportunity in the week ahead to show God and others time, attention, and love – because in the end, it’s all they really want after all.

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