God charges you with the mission of a lifetime

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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: July 24, 2011
1 Kg 3:5, 7-12; Ps 119; Rom 8:28-30; Matt 13:44-52

Young Solomon was nervous. His father, the great King David, had just died after a 40-year reign; and now Solomon had been chosen to succeed him as king, at the young age of—well, Scripture doesn’t specify, but the age 18 or his 20s is a pretty good guess. And now he was faced with, not just surviving palace intrigues to overthrow him; but also the weight and responsibility of governing a vast people justly and well. How would he ever be up to the task?

And, although this moment in Solomon’s life happened some 3000 years ago, we know what it was like, don’t we? For every one of us has faced such moments, perhaps many times. When we start a new and better job; or are elected to a new position; or vow lifelong faithfulness to a spouse; or first hold a newborn child—or any great life change occurs and we face a new and greater responsibility, and we too ask ourselves, How will I ever be up to the task?

For young Solomon had been given a solemn mission; and he took it seriously. And we heard in the first reading what he prayed for. Not riches, not a long life, not the defeat of his enemies—not these things that he might have wanted for himself—but rather for what he was lacking to carry out his mission. He asked for an understanding heart to judge correctly and to distinguish right from wrong, so that he could serve well as king. And we read that the Lord was pleased with this request, and he granted it.

This mission of Solomon’s—to be king—disrupted his life. He was not free to set his own course, achieve his own ambitions, fulfill his own desires. He was destined to be king; he was called to it, he was born to it. And that would shape everything. Can you imagine? To need to give up what you wanted in order to fulfill a solemn mission? Good thing that doesn’t apply to any of us. Good thing we haven’t been called to such a mission!

Brothers and sisters, I hope you don’t believe what I just said! For St. Peter wrote to us in his first letter: “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, … that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Pe 2:9) And St. Paul likewise speaks in today’s second reading of those who are called according to his purpose. Called by God, for a reason—his reason. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Destined us, to become more and more like Christ.

And does that have anything to do with being a king? Yes! For as the Second Vatican Council emphasized to us, Christ held the triple office, or munera, of prophet, priest, and king. And each of us who have been baptized into him has been given a share in those three offices: prophet, priest, and king. We too have been called away from a private life, shaped by our own desires and ambitions—to fulfill the solemn mission for which our Lord Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for us.

How are you doing? Are you fulfilling that mission? Could you use a little refocusing? To help with a little self-examination, let’s touch on four points that can sketch the outline of this mission we have been given.

First, your mission is to know God. “God made you to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.” You were created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26); and when you were baptized into Christ you were adopted in him as a son or daughter of God (Gal 4:4-7). Have you lived out that relationship? Do you know him? Not just, do you know about him; but do you know him?

Think of it this way—especially if you’re over 30 or 40: Do people know you as a prayerful person; as someone who regularly speaks and listens to God? If they should find a spiritual hunger within themselves, would they ask you what to do about it? Would they ask you what God is like; what he wants? And if they wouldn’t ask you that; if you wouldn’t know—why not? It’s part of your mission; God wants you to know him!

Second, your mission is to be holy. One of the great teachings of the Second Vatican Council is the universal call to holiness. You are called to be holy; you are called to become a saint. And the essence of holiness is to love as Christ loved; with a total, generous, selfless love that is anchored in the truth; to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Mat 22:37), and to love your neighbor as Christ himself loves us (Mat 22:39, John 15:12).

So, are you a saint? St. Joe, St. Jennifer, Saint Whatever-your-name-is? Can people count on you for that kind of perfect love? And never to fall into anything shady or sinful or selfish? Solomon prayed for the gift of wisdom so that he could fulfill his mission. What do you need to pray for, to make progress on the road to holiness?

Third, your mission is to embrace your vocation. And no, I don’t mean the job you go to every day; I mean the state of life to which God has called you. For me, that vocation is the priesthood; for some, it is the religious life; for most of you here today, your vocation is marriage and family. Are you embracing your vocation faithfully? Are you prioritizing it higher than your job or anything else? Are you serving your family energetically? For that is your mission; and it is the primary means by which the Lord makes you holy and reshapes your heart to conformed to the image of his Son.

Fourth, your mission is to change the world. The Second Vatican Council emphasized that every baptized lay person has the responsibility of sharing in the Church’s mission in the world. And that involves, they wrote, “evangelization and sanctification.”

  • Evangelization: to speak the truth of the Good News of Christ to those who do not yet believe it and perhaps have never heard it.
  • Sanctification: to shape the values, activities, and institutions of this world more and more according to the holy love of Christ.

And that’s hard. Because we know that many don’t want to hear that truth, don’t want to be reshaped to be good, honest, and kind. So it takes great courage; and courage would be a good thing to ask God for, when you pray, like young Solomon, for what it takes to fulfill your mission.

To know God; to be holy; to live out your vocation; and to change the world. That is your solemn mission! That is what God has called you to. That is the gift that you bring to offer him at this Mass. And that is the treasure that is worth selling everything to gain, out of joy.

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