Sunday, July 27, 2008

17th Sunday - homily

Some of you have seen the pamphlet I’ve written on the Eucharist, “C.o.o.l.”. In the pamphlet, I have an exercise which I often use when I give talks on the Eucharist to groups or conferences or on retreats. In the exercise, I ask the people to make a list of the ten most important people, places, or things in their life. Once they’ve made their list, I ask them to number the items 1-10, with 1 being the most important.

One time I was leading this exercise to a group of religious leaders in parishes and schools – teachers, catechists, directors of religious education. I said to them, ‘I hope that God has made your list! If not, please add him as a late entry, and…you’re fired!’ (No one was fired that day)

Hopefully, God would make all of our top ten lists; ideally, He is #1. The exercise is a good one to see what is most important to us in life. Also, it helps us to see where God is in our list of the most important and valuable things. The point of today’s readings is that God is not only the important person, place, or thing in our lives, He is the most valuable.

Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God as a treasure in today’s Gospel which is so valuable that it is worth giving up everything to have it. There is a story which I just came across last week which is a great example of this. A young man is retiring from professional soccer in order to be a priest. Chase Hilgenbrinck is 26 and just retired from the New England Revolution soccer team so that he can enter Mount St. Mary’s seminary this Fall. For Chase, the kingdom of Heaven is such a valuable treasure that he is giving up everything in order to have it on Earth.

Why would he do this? Why would the two men from the parable give up everything to have the Kingdom of Heaven? Why would Solomon from the first reading – who could have had anything he wanted from God – choose the things of God over anything else? Why would these individuals all give up anything and everything for the kingdom of Heaven? Because the Kingdom of Heaven brings fulfillment. God’s kingdom fulfills us.
It brings great joy, a joy that lasts. This fulfillment or happiness is so great that it is worth giving up everything else to obtain it.

We look at the things that are most important to us – we look at our top ten lists – and ask, do they fulfill us? Do they bring us happiness? Do they bring a joy that doesn’t pass. If they do fulfill us, then they give us an experience of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are real treasures. If they don’t fulfill us, then they are most likely mere pleasures. Pleasure is joy that doesn’t last. The difference really is between treasure and pleasure: the kingdom of God involves treasure while the kingdom of this world involves pleasure.

In a few minutes, we will see and receive the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, the Eucharist. Hopefully, the Eucharist makes our top ten – again, it should be #1! It is the greatest treasure on Earth. It is the pearl of great price. It is more valuable than anything else on Earth. I have seen many people in our parish come to know the value of this treasure and have given up much to have it. They are experiencing fulfillment in coming to Mass or Adoration more frequently. They are experiencing happiness in the Eucharist. They are experiencing a joy that doesn’t pass. They are experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.


At 8:33 AM, Blogger Webster said...

Would I have put God and the Eucharist on my top 10 list prior to this homily? I'd like to think so. Until recently I've been wrapped up in material things, although I've given great thought to my spiritual life. I've come to recognize that my relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist is the most intense, intimate relationship we as humans can enter. Hopefully this homily will spur me to begin to clean my closets of material trappings and collectibles in favor of a more spiritual collection of goods and services.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read the article on Chase Hilgenbrink, I wasn’t struck by the fact that a professional athlete would give up his athletic prowess to serve God; I was struck by the fact that the church was the one familiar comfort Chase turned to when immersed in a totally foreign country, culture and language. The following phrases; “… remind him of childhood Sundays spent at Holy Trinity…- raised in a Catholic family of regular churchgoers…- began to seek out familiar surroundings - fell back on what I knew, and that was the Catholic Church - grew up as a Catholic – was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools…” all speak to the importance of exposure and involvement in one’s church.

For an environment to be familiar, one must spend time in it. From Chase’s comments, it sounds as if he spent many hours surrounded by the love the Catholic faith offers. Years of Catholic school (I suspect he drew many self portraits diagramming sentences in English class!), weekly mass and church related activities obviously left a good impression on him.

So, why do I mention my take on this article? It dawned on me that Chase’s decision to become a priest may have been influenced by all the people he interacted with during his formative years; his parents, teachers, priests, deacons, etc. Let us all continue to live lives that spread the love of Jesus.


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