Homily for July 27, 2014
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Pearl of Great Price
A good long time ago, two young men entered college and happened to be randomly assigned as roommates together. They couldn’t have been more different – one was just coming off of a major conversion – he was filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel and win the world for Christ. The other one was a party animal, in love with the world and its pleasures. Against all odds, they became friends and got along well.
But every day, the Christian young man would ask his friend the same question: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul?” The worldly fellow was mildly annoyed by this question, which was repeated daily. It almost became a routine: at some point during the day – they could be studying, or having lunch together, or just waking up in the morning or brushing their teeth – but the Christian young man would turn to the other and ask him the same question: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul?”
It took three years, but through this simple question, the worldly young man began to finally examine his life. He realized just how utterly futile it was for him to live for the passing pleasures of this world. Three years after their friendship began, the worldly man finally asked the Christian what he might do in order to find the deep happiness that he was seeking.
The Christian young man invited him to join the new religious order of priests that he was founding. The formerly-worldly man agreed, and together the two of them set out to become two of the most famous and well-known saints in the world: St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and St. Francis Xavier, who was converted by St. Ignatius’ perseverance in that one simple question: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul?”
We were created for one purpose: to become saints. In fact, one author (Leon Bloy) once said, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” That’s what Jesus means in today’s parable.
Have you ever watched that TV show “Pawn Stars” (or back when I was younger we had the TV show “Antiques Roadshow” which was basically the same concept without the slightly PG-13 show title). Imagine if you walked into a pawn shop and you saw that someone was selling an antique chair that was worth seventeen million dollars – and they were selling it for only a thousand. Wouldn’t you head straight to the ATM or your local bank and withdraw the money to buy that item? Of course you would! Because you knew the value of that 1850s wicker chair, you would do anything you could to get your hands on it. Nothing could stop you.
Now let’s take that story to its logical conclusion. If you knew that you could have an eternity with joy unimaginable, that you could experience the most profound love, that you could have perfect contentment forever and ever, world without end, wouldn’t you say that that is the most valuable prize in the universe, worth even more than seventeen million dollars? Of course. An eternity of joy is what we all really long for. Compared to the joy, the price we pay is really rather small. Jesus simply asks us to give up our sins, to follow His commandments, and to have a real relationship with Him.
Not only is that a small price, the price we pay is itself a gift. It’s like a little kid – I grew up with four younger siblings so I know how little kids act. Have you ever caught a little kid trying to put something bad into their mouths, like maybe trying to suck on a marker thinking it’s a lollipop? We grab the marker and take it away, and then give them a real lollipop instead. Same way with our relationship with Christ. He wants to take away our sins – which make us sick and miserable anyway – and instead, give us His peace and joy. Sounds like a deal I’ll willingly make!
What is the treasure? What is the pearl? It’s holiness. To become a saint. To live your daily life, but to live it transformed for Jesus Christ, seeking after Heaven. Because what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose eternal life – the only thing that really matters?