17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you “say” you really, really love something; and I mean when you “say” you really, really, “really” love something … maybe it’s a favorite sports team, or a video game; maybe it’s a favorite song, a movie, a book; maybe it’s a favorite restaurant, a brewery, a pub; maybe it’s a favorite person, an athlete, a musician, an actor; maybe it’s the love of your life, or the child or grandchild who stole your heart; when you “say” you really, really, “really” love something or someone, would you be willing to give up all else? Hypothetically, of course. No one is going to force you to go live on a desert island without any of the conveniences that make living bearable. We have gotten accustomed to throwing around such superlatives as “the best” or “the greatest” or “that which makes my life complete” or “that which I cannot imagine life without.” In the end, when we “say” we really, really, “really” love something or someone, it’s just something we “say.” Until we hand over to that something or someone the power or influence to change our lives irrevocably, so that returning to a life as before is rendered completely impossible, it’s just something we say. It’s just a passing sentiment, something nice to hear, but really nothing that we claim it to be.

It’s true, our lives can be forever changed by a single event, a driving passion, or a truly remarkable person. There are likely several such events, passions, and persons all along our life’s journey. I remember when I was 4 or 5, I loved chicken noodle soup. But one day I was stirring my bowl of soup a little too fast, that I spilled it on myself, and had to be taken to the ER. I still love chicken noodle soup, but I’m more careful around hot food now. In high school, I was in the band. I played a quartino, which is a shorter clarinet. It led to playing the alto sax in college, which I agree is much cooler. I will never forget my solo when we played the Star Wars symphony. I know I can still do it. And Star Wars will always have a special place in my heart. And when I was a young priest, I hit a wall so hard I was ready to leave it all behind. I met Bishop Walter Sullivan to whom I will be forever grateful. He said, “I don’t care if you stay in the Diocese of Richmond or you go back to New York (I was in a religious community at the time), but the church cannot afford to lose one more priest.” So I understand there will be good days and bad days (we all have them), and bishops will come and go. But I can’t imagine another life than the one I’m living. And there is such power in kindness. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. I love my life. I see God doing wonderful things all the time. And sometimes, I’m in the same room when it happens.

So the treasures we hold most dear are seldom what we imagine, look forward to, or prepare for all our lives. We think we know what life ahead might be like, but it always ends up being something else altogether, something we did not ever see coming. And it’s not like we can’t handle it. We’re stronger than we think we are. And before we know it, it shapes us. It transforms us. And we are never the same again.

So have you seriously looked at that treasure yet, that pearl of great price you found when you weren’t looking? It finds you, you know. Or has it not found you yet?

Young King Solomon was surrounded by wealth and royal power and servants and all manner of earthly glory. But when God offered to give him whatever he asked, the young king asked for an understanding heart, to judge justly, and to distinguish right from wrong.[1] I know I’m not alone imagining what I’d ask for if I found a magic lamp with a genie who gave me three wishes. I recently saw a documentary about Princess Diana[2], 20 years after her death, as narrated by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry. They were 15 and 12 respectively when their mother died. And despite their deep regrets for not paying closer attention when she was around, they both can point to her remarkable influence in their young lives. And those who knew her well say they see her in her sons. Now that’s the ultimate tribute, that one who is no longer around lives on in those who come after. That’s not something you can fake.

So did Jesus mean to pass on to his followers such an influence that the world would be forever transformed? Or is that something the apostles conjured up themselves? History continues to remind us that they could not have anticipated how things would have turned out had they had the best marketing research, technology, and staff money could buy, then or now. God most definitely had something to do with it. You think? Yet despite such mind-blowing success through 2000 years of human history, many of us are still unimpressed. Okay, it hasn’t been 2000 years of mind-blowing success. There may be a few dark decades we would rather not mention. But ultimately, there is something intangibly awesome and amazing about the man Jesus Christ that so many lives through the ages have been forever changed.


Without Jesus Christ, the world would never have known the likes of Mary Magdalene or Paul, of Francis or Clare, of Patrick, or Augustine, of Maria Goretti or Dominic Savio, of Padre Pio or Mother Teresa. Because of them and so many others, the world is forever changed. Many in their day were probably completely unmoved and unimpressed by these spiritual giants and just exceptional people living among them. But we have some among us still. You might be sitting next to one of them. Maybe you are one of them. So what’s to stop us from being that kind of transforming influence on other people and the world around us? We aren’t that much different from them really. Like them, we believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ. We read the bible. We come to church, some of us more than others. We say we are Christian, and that we love our Christian faith, again some more than others. But they found some amazing treasure. Or someone amazing found them. Have you stumbled upon that treasure yet, that pearl of great price you would be willing to sell everything you own in order to buy?

You can’t fake that kind of enthusiasm. But even transformation starts small. If we say we love God, our Christian faith, our church, it will show. We might not be willing to sell everything we own just yet. But we can greet one another here at church, friends and visitors alike, with more joy. We can extend that handshake of peace more sincerely and intentionally. We can more willingly show kindness to someone who’s tired or lonely or afraid. We may not think we’re doing anything transforming. But those whose lives we touch will be able to tell we’ve found that treasure, that pearl of great price. It will show in our eyes, in our words, in our kindness. It’s just not something you can fake.

Rolo B Castillo © 2017

[1] 1 Kings 3: 9.

[2] http://ew.com/tv/2017/07/24/princess-diana-hbo-documentary-highlights/