Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. Back in 1986, the American singer Steve Winwood had a number one hit with a song called ‘Higher Love’. The chorus lyrics include: ‘Bring me a higher love…where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?’
The words of the song remind us that not all our loves are on the same level. We have many loves – for our families, friends, sports, hobbies and hopefully for God too. But not all of them are equally important. Would you go to a hurling match if your brother was getting married on the same day? Of course not! Our love for our brother is a ‘higher love’ than our love for sport or the team we support. We choose one over the other. It makes sense.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells two parables that also involve making a choice for one love, higher than another. In the first, he talks about a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field. He prizes this treasure so highly that he goes off and sells everything he has in order to buy that field. His love of the treasure outweighs everything else. He also tells about a merchant who finds the pearl he has searched for all his life. When he found it, he sells everything he owns and buys it. Both these parables are about the re-ordering of our loves so that we choose what is highest and what is best.
For us Christians, our highest love is God himself. He comes first, always. When he doesn’t, everything lesser than him inevitably leaves us less than happy and fulfilled. That is why the song ‘Higher Love’ is a really a type of hymn. When Steve Winwood sings ‘Bring me a Higher Love’ he is really searching for the highest love of all who is God. Whitney Houston also touched on it with her song 'The Greatest Love of All'.
In our culture today, the danger is that God is being continually squeezed out. He is no longer our highest love or perhaps he isn’t a love of ours at all. Often, God for us can be just one love among many who gets lost among the other interests that take up our time. It’s not that God demands all our attention like a jealous tyrant. But when we come to know the love, beauty and mercy of God at first hand then re-ordering our loves with him in first place, becomes not what we have to do but what we want to do. It’s a question of where our hearts are centered.
This spiritual message has practical consequences as we see from the two parables. If God is to be our highest love then so is his kingdom. We can’t separate the two. This is what the treasure in the field and the pearl of the sea stand for. If God is our highest love then our hearts will be set on helping to make God’s kingdom a reality in the world – that the hungry be fed, people are cared for, feel they belong, receive justice and are reconciled. It means that our energies are directed outwards to making ‘his kingdom come’ while we pray for it to happen. Our lives are ultimately not about us. They are about God’s purposes for us. Therefore, it’s not so much about asking God to get into my world as me getting into his world and serving his kingdom with the gifts he has given to each of us.
In the light of the Gospel this weekend, perhaps it is time for us to assess again the loves in our lives and see what order they are in. What or who comes first? Have we become too attached to something or someone that is not God? If God is not our highest love then his kingdom will be just one love among many. If he is our highest love then our greatest priority will be to help make his kingdom present at home and beyond.
I conclude with more words from Steve Winwood’s song that serve as an examination of conscience: ‘Think about it, there must be higher love. Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above. Without it, life is a wasted time. Look inside your heart, I'll look inside mine’.