By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Given by Bishop Loverde for the Quo Vadis Days Opening Mass at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
Dear brothers and sisters all in Christ Jesus, but in a very special way, the participants in this year’s Quo Vadis Days. My words are particularly addressed to you, dear young brothers.
I hope that you will echo Solomon: “Lord, give me an understanding heart, a heart that is able to distinguish right from wrong.” And why do I hope that you will ask for an understanding heart? Because an understanding heart is open to God’s plan. Yes, God has a plan for each one of us. Inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever it may be.
“But,” you ask, “what is God’s plan for me? After all, if inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever that may be, then it is essential that we discover what is His plan, His will for my life.”
In today’s gospel account, Jesus is teaching us through story — telling, that is, He is using situations familiar to his audience in order to teach a lesson; this type of story — telling is called a parable. Every parable which Jesus uses has a very important point or lesson for us to learn.
As we just heard, Jesus uses two parables. The first is about a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again. Out of joy, he sells all that he has so that he can buy that field and possess the buried treasure. The second parable is about a merchant who is searching for fine pearls and when he finds one pearl of great price, sells all that he has to purchase that pearl.
In the first parable, the person is going about his daily business. He is working, and in this situation, he is digging the earth. As he digs, he suddenly discovers a buried treasure. So, he goes off to sell all he has so he can buy that field and possess that treasure himself. In the second parable, the merchant is actively searching for pearls of the highest quality. When he finds one pearl that is exceedingly beautiful, he too sells all he has so he can purchase that one precious pearl.
Notice that while treasure was discovered unexpectedly as the person was doing the work assigned to him, the merchant was actively searching for the pearls of great price. Notice that in each situation, when the treasure was discovered and the pearl was found, the person sold all he had to possess his discovery.
Now we need to apply to ourselves the lessons which Jesus is teaching us through these two parables. After all, Jesus is speaking in a special way to each of you as you begin these Quo Vadis Days.
The buried treasure or the pearl of great price — choose either one — is the symbol of the plan God has for each one of us — for each one of you! But God’s plan will not just suddenly appear, like the result of pressing an app on your cell phone. As you do the ordinary things in life each day, you must be open to discovering God’s plan when at some specific moment, His plan will begin to become clearer to you; you will begin to discern more His will for you. In other words, each day, you will need to be open to God’s will as it becomes known to you. You must become like Solomon, asking only for an understanding heart, a heart open to discover that buried treasure, a heart open to purchase the pearl of great price, because, remember: the treasure, the pearl, is really God’s plan for your life.
So, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is not something passive, like lying around waiting for it to somehow almost magically appear. No, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is something very active. You must be actively engaged. How? By learning how to be in personal contact with Jesus, Who so loves you, by developing and deepening a really personal relationship with Him within the Community of His Disciples, the Church. You must also be actively engaged by listening to your heart, not your feelings, to begin to discern what really attracts you in terms of your future adult life. You must also be actively engaged by coming to understand the basic ways in which you — and I — live out our Baptismal consecration. At Baptism, each one of us was set apart — consecrated — for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can share in their union of love, in their life by imitating and following Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came to be our Lord and Savior. In a word, God’s plan for each one of us is fundamentally to be like Jesus.
Saint Paul reminds us of this in the second reading today. “We know that all things work for good, for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Yes, God has chosen each one of us in advance, predestined us, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is, to be like Jesus. So, first of all, each one of us is called to learn Jesus Christ, that is, to know Him as a person, as our Friend, our Companion, our Savior, our Lord. And this is what we mean when we say God calls us to live out our Baptismal consecration. But God’s plan for each of us becomes more specific and concrete as we grow from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. He wants us to be like Jesus in a specific or particular way: by living out the particular or individual vocation He wills for us.
So then, He wants us to be like Jesus in being a priest, or to be like Jesus in being a consecrated person as a religious brother or religious sister, or to be like Jesus in being married as a husband and father. There are wives and mothers among us, so He wants them to be like Jesus in being a wife and mother. He wants us to be like Jesus in being a single person pledged to chaste living for the sake of God’s Kingdom, or to be like Jesus in being a permanent deacon while also being married or unmarried. So then, we each have a fundamental or primary vocation to be like Jesus, as the faithful follower, disciple and friend. And we also each have a specific or individual calling or vocation to be like Jesus as a priest or a religious brother or religious sister, or a husband and father, or a wife and mother for those among us this afternoon, or a single person living chastely for the sake of God’s kingdom, or a permanent deacon.
Dear participants, in these Quo Vadis Days, learn more how to be with Jesus through daily prayer, and the reception of the sacraments, especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Learn more how to listen to your heart and how to seek the good advice of others as you discern what your heart is saying. Learn more how to never cease seeking God’s plan for you specifically, in your adult life. But above all, learn more how to discover the greatest treasure, the best pearl, that is, learn how to love Jesus Christ, to be with Him, to imitate and to follow Him all life long! “Quo Vadis,” I ask. I hear your answer: “To find and to be with Jesus my Lord!”
Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.