I wonder if L. Frank Baum knew he was writing the parable of our age when he authored his “Wizard of Oz” series. Study this Sunday’s mass readings and you’ll realize they all contain elements of that story—or, I should say his story contains all those scriptural elements:
The discovery of your hidden potential;
The desire to reach that potential;
The journey to reach that potential;
God’s blessings that sustain us along that journey.
In our first reading from the Book of Kings (1 kgs 3:5, 7-12), Solomon is presented as all of Baum’s main characters rolled into one. He’s thrust into a daunting situation—succeeding King David—and he asks the Lord for the wisdom to lead his people. He doesn’t ask for the secrets to leadership or even the trappings of it, he asks for the power to learn from experience. In other words, he asks for wisdom to sustain him along the journey.
“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong,” he prays.
That’s the greatest prayer anyone can express, because it recognizes the importance of that journey—which is God’s plan for us. It doesn’t ask for what lies at the end of that journey. And in praying that prayer, Solomon shows that he already has the essence of his heart’s desire. It took great wisdom to perceive his destiny and to seek divine help in taking the first steps toward it.
Such wisdom has three elements—heart, courage and smarts—for which Baum’s characters journeyed, gradually realizing along the way that the objects of their desire were already buried deep within them. That was the big reveal at the story’s conclusion, and a key point that Jesus makes about our desire for salvation in this Sunday’s gospel reading from Matthew (mt 13:44-52):
“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.”
Our journey is all about that lifelong purchasing process to stake our claim in God’s Kingdom. That kingdom is already deep within us, but we can only reach it through the process of living. That life is our purpose, and God’s everlasting gift to us—one he planned for us from the beginning of time and then renewed through His Son, as Paul teaches the Romans in our second reading (rom 8:28-30):
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
All we have to do is follow him on that road.