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.