When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart. (Jeremiah 15:16)
The words of God filled the prophet with happiness. Why? The prophet answers: “Because I bore the name of the Lord God of hosts.”
The treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price: the thing worth giving everything else up for… What excels the worth of every other conceivable thing? A person can take the long way or the short way to find the answer.
People get themselves in trouble when they say things like, “I would sell my soul for that piece of double-chocolate sinful decadence truffle cheesecake a la mode.” Or when they say something like, “If this is wrong, baby, I don’t want to be right.”
Trouble. Physical pleasure cannot justify total self-abandonment. Sensual delight is not the pearl of great price.
What about worldly glory? “I don’t want to be a mean guy. But I might have to tread on a few people’s heads to get to the top.” Or: “Gosh. I have built up such a great reputation for myself. Yeah, I made a little mistake here, but no one needs to know. They wouldn’t know the difference anyway. I’ll cut a corner here with the truth.”
Sounds a lot like what the former president of Penn State might have said to himself. Glory and power cannot quite justify total self-abandonment, either. How about money?
If I sell my soul for money, how much will I get? Will I get enough to put Robert Griffin III under contract to play quarterback for my pick-up touch-football team? And that will be fun for..what? an hour?
So: By the long way or the short way, we realize: God trumps. The eternal vocation of my immortal soul trumps. Nothing can really compete with the prospect of eternal happiness in heaven.
Four hours on an ATV, with unlimited gas, vs. heaven? Free Big Macs, every day for a month, vs. heaven? Two weeks in Monte Carlo, with fourteen different Gucci suits to wear while I’m there, vs. heaven? Heaven wins every time. It’s not even a fair fight. You could even throw something involving the young Sophia Lauren into the mix, and it still wouldn’t really be a contest. Heaven is better.
So: getting to heaven… The prophet: “How can I be healed?” The Lord: “If you repent—if you bring forth the precious without the vile, I will make you a wall of polished brass.”
If we find ourselves seeking God, it is because He has already found us. If we make good use of the sacraments, it is because the Lord gave them to us so that we could get to heaven. If our consciences accuse us of sin, it is because the Lord wants only to forgive and give us grace to sin no more.
His words, which, when we devour them, give happiness to our hearts…what are they exactly? Aren’t they as simple as this? “I made you in my own image and likeness for eternal life. My Son took your sins upon Himself, so that you can shine forever with perfect justice. Just let me love you.”
Abandon ourselves completely to that? Yes.
…PS. Click here to read one of the more inspiring exercises of pastoral leadership I have ever seen.
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