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Celebrating the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it" (Matt 13:44-46).

The lesson of these two parables is as true for us today, as it was for those Palestinians to whom Christ spoke. All Christians are called on to imitate the two wise men and surrender all their earthly possessions if necessary in order to gain eternal life. Does this "giving all" mean that we are all expected to abandon the world and take on the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience? There are many who do just this. But it is not the only way, nor the normal way, to purchase the eternal treasure. Heaven is within the reach of all, who follow the ordinary vocations of life and partake of this world's joys and pleasures within the framework of God's commandments, but never lose sight of the goal toward which they are moving.

Keeping within the framework of God's commandments is the difficulty. We need not have a vow of obedience, but we must obey all legitimate authority. We may possess the goods of this world, but only such goods as we lawfully and justly acquire. Nor may we withhold all of these from a fellow man who is in need. We do not have to take a vow of chastity, but yet we must be chaste, we must use the gifts and the pleasure of sex only within the limits set down by God's wise laws.

All of this is not easy for human nature. But we are not relying on weak human nature, we have within our reach in the Church all the spiritual and supernatural aids we need. Our twentieth century, it is true, is so engrossed in chasing after the earthly comforts and pleasures of the body, and so devoid of any spiritual or other-worldly outlook, that even those who know and believe that there is an eternity after death, find it hard to allow their faith and convictions to govern and direct their daily actions. Yet, the evil example of others will never justify our wrong-doing. The commandments of God are still binding, even though they are openly and flagrantly violated by individuals and whole nations today.

Remember this: we shall not be asked at the judgment, "What did your neighbor do?", but "what did you do?" If we lose the pearl of great price in the eternity of happiness God has offered to us-it will not be the fault of others. The fault will be ours and ours only. We refused to pay the price. We did not think it worth the "paltry all" which we possessed in this life.

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