Sunday Scriptures

How Do We Calculate The Cost of the Kingdom?

by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise

GET-RICH-QUICK schemes seldom get anyone very rich, and that is very much the heart of the message in The Million Dollar Idea episode of the 1950s sitcom, “I Love Lucy.”

This particular episode revolves around Lucy’s Aunt Martha’s recipe for salad dressing. It makes such an impression at dinner that Fred suggests she bottle and sell it. Ethel joins in the scheme and the fun begins. They even purchase air time at their friend Carolyn Appleby’s husband’s television station to advertise it. By the time their first advertisement finishes, they already have 23 orders!

Of course, they are proud of their success until Ricky, Lucy’s generally more grounded husband, does some math and announces that they are not making any profit, but are actually losing money on each bottle. They never calculated the costs of production, advertisement, delivery, etc.

When the ladies go back on television to dissuade viewers from buying, their non-commercial is presumed to be tongue in cheek and the orders pile in even more rapidly.

Calculating the Cost

Eventually, they solve their problem by filling over a thousand orders with a store-bought replacement, delivering them personally, absorbing the loss and going out of business. Although the world would have been deprived of a comedy classic, all the antics could have been avoided by calculating the cost before going into business.

Continuing on the theme of television shows from my childhood, calculating the cost was also the challenge of the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.”

The premise of the show was that audience members arrive at the studio trying to attract the attention of the host with their costumes and signs. Monty Hall was the original host, and he would give one of the audience members a prize, and then offer a trade. The catch was that they would trade for the unknown, either “what’s behind the curtain” or “what’s hidden under the box.”

Well, there might be a goat behind the curtain and the key to a new car under the box or a trip for two behind the curtain and some of “Aunt Martha’s Salad Dressing” under the box. Unlike Lucy’s predicament, contestants on the game show knew they were dealing with the unknown. They had to be willing to take a risk – some paid off well and others not – but everyone had fun, and no one left poorer. It was a game and everyone went to the studio knowing it was a game.

Recognizing Obstacles

The Gospel invites us to calculate the cost of the kingdom. Of course, Jesus who invites us to love one another as He has loved us cannot really be asking us to hate our mothers and brothers, fathers and sisters, and children. But what if they are obstacles to His kingdom?

What if St. Bernadette had listened to her parents and not gone to “the woman?” What if St. Francis chose his father’s wealth, or refused to leave his sister in the care of others?

These saints entered into worlds of the unknown, knowing what they were leaving behind, but not knowing what waited for them, except that they knew it was God’s promise. They knew that somehow they were being called toward something greater and were ready to take the risk. Holding onto the things of this world paled in comparison to the promise of something greater.

In a very tense scene in the 1966 film, “A Man for All Seasons,” Richard Rich betrays Thomas More. As Rich is leaving the court, Thomas notices he is wearing a symbol of Wales and challenges him, “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?”

Alternately, in Graham Greene’s 1957 play, “The Potting Shed,” an uncle offers his faith for his nephew’s life, only to have that faith restored the more because he believed in the power of his prayer and God’s willingness to heal.

By definition, a choice means to select one thing rather than another. The choices we make indicate what is important to us in the moment, but also bring potential ramifications for the future.

Each of us has to make a lot of choices, today and every day – choices that range from what to wear and what to eat, to whether or not to help that stranger on the street or offer a kind word to a co-worker that does not treat us kindly. The message of Christ is to calculate the cost.

Ultimately, it profits us not to gain wealth and prestige in this world at the sacrifice of the promised kingdom.

Readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  

Wisdom 9: 13-18B

Psalm 90: 3-4, 5-6, 12-13,


Philemon 1: 9-10, 12-17

Luke 14: 25-33

Msgr. Joseph P. Calise is the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Williamsburg.