17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Published: July 30, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the closing Mass of the 2017 Arkansas Catholic Charismatic Conference at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock on Sunday, July 30, 2017.

Bishop Taylor

When I was a child in the 1950s and 60s, there was very little divorce and most families were large — seven kids was normal. There were also lots of vocations. Many parishes had schools staffed by nuns. I never had heard of a priest leaving the ministry and was shocked when that began to occur.

In those days, when people made a commitment it was for life. They were able to do so because they regarded their vocation in life to be a treasure so valuable that they were willing to give up everything else to obtain it and keep it — be it to marriage and family or to a religious vocation, including (and even especially) when there was a price to pay. And if it really is valuable, there will be a price to pay — bridges to burn, sacrifices to make.

Well in today’s Gospel Jesus says that the same is true for the Kingdom of God: There will be a price to pay. It is a costly treasure but well worth it. The Kingdom of God is like a treasure found in a field, like a pearl of great price, and the person who finds it, who truly recognizes it for what it is, will gladly go and sell, give up, all he has to acquire it, which is precisely what Jesus’ disciples have done.

How much different would American society be today if the challenges of marriage and child rearing were once again viewed as a treasure that God will use to help them grow in holiness instead of as a burden?

They’ve given up everything. They’ve left father and mother, sister and brother, houses and land to follow Jesus. But acquiring the treasure is just the first step. Keeping the treasure is the work of a lifetime.

On the day of your wedding and on the day of my ordination, you and I acquired a great treasure but as we know all too well, keeping that treasure is not automatic, not even for Jesus’ disciples. Elsewhere Jesus tells them that "whoever puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is unfit for the kingdom of God."

I think it’s probably safe to say that most of you present today have found this treasure — the Kingdom of God — otherwise you wouldn’t be at this Catholic charismatic conference. So my question for you is: What are you doing to keep it? To keep from losing it?

Because the treasure is valuable, it is costly. If you’re not paying a price for your faith, are you really living it? Moreover thieves try to steal things that are valuable — in this case, Satan. I’m paying the price of celibacy.

Most of you are married people.My parents paid the price of openness to children and God gave them seven little treasures. Raising a family requires sacrifices, but if you asked them my parents they would say: 1.) It was worth it; and 2.) This is what God asked of them.

And by the way, if something is a treasure, you always want more of it. Have you ever heard a millionaire say: All this money sure is a big burden, I wish I had less? Quite the contrary — we always want more of the things we treasure.

Well, one of the big changes from the past is that we now live out of a consumer mentality. Sixty years ago people viewed children as blessing from God — that’s why so many families were large and abortion was unthinkable. Today people act like children are an acquisition: the timing and number of which they will decide, not God, after they’ve done a cost-benefit analysis — many couples today figure two kids is about right.

Is this because that’s all the treasure they want? No, they’re not thinking in terms of treasure, even if they do cherish their children. What they’re really thinking is: That’s all I can afford and even, that’s all the burden I can stand — because raising children is very demanding.

But there you have it: The root of the contraceptive mentality that has destroyed so many marriages and produced so much alienation among our children. How much different would American society be today if the challenges of marriage and child rearing were once again viewed as a treasure that God will use to help them grow in holiness instead of as a burden?

And how many more young people do you think might respond to God’s call to the priesthood or religious life if ordination and celibacy were viewed as a treasure that frees them to love and serve more generously instead of as a burden to be endured?

Both are costly — like any true treasure — but well worth it! Like that treasure in the field and that pearl of great price, the person who finds it and recognizes it for what it is — will gladly go and sell, give up, all that he has to acquire it.