(The following is a brief summary of the homily I gave last Sunday in my three parishes. It is written at the request of a few of my parishioners.)
This does not happen to me often, and I do not want to give the impression that I am something special because of it, but it did happen and it stayed with me. I was praying for my parishes recently and pleading with the Lord that He would grant a particular request. In the midst of my prayer, I was overwhelmed with an "inner voice" that spoke to me. It was not merely an impression, but specific words that I could repeat out loud. In my heart I heard: "Don't presume to tell God what's needed here, as though you know more than He does; God knows what is needed, and He will always give exactly what is needed and it may not be the same as what you want!" Then as the words finished, I was struck by the realization that it was not the Lord Who was speaking to me, but rather the Blessed Virgin. Like a Mommy wagging her finger and saying "shape up kiddo!"
I had to change my perspective in that prayer. I knew how to pray rightly, but was not doing so at that moment. I quickly adjusted and said, "Lord, I think this is what is needed, but You know best." We have to do that at times in our lives: readjust our perspective on what really matters, and what the Lord considers valuable. In the gospel reading last Sunday we are told about a pearl of great value, and we all know that the ultimate Pearl is none other than Christ Himself. Yet, once we realize that truth, then we also must follow along and submit all our "values" to Him for that very same adjustment I referred to above. This is a hard task, but it is essential (and somewhat natural) for those who see Christ as that Pearl of ultimate value.
How do you determine whether you are keeping Christ as the most important and valuable thing in your life? Ask yourself quickly: "How do I make spiritual decisions?" If you are deciding on spiritual matters based on convenience then you can be sure that you are not keeping Christ first. Whether it is Mass attendance, prayer, Scripture reading, or any other spiritual discipline, we cannot decide our engagement with them based (even the slightest bit) on convenience. In essence, every decision must begin with the question "what will please Christ the most?" If we begin with any other question, then we will fail to obey our Lord (sorry, but this is guaranteed).
So then, quickly ask yourself, what is your "pearl of great price". What are you willing to give up everything to get? If it is not Christ Himself, then you are not walking in faith. If we place anything else first then that thing becomes an idol to us. It was St. Augustine who said, “idolatry is: worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.” When we get things upside-down in our spirituality then idolatry always happens.
What we have to consider now is the state of things in our nation. Things are looking quite bad, and they are only getting worse. We should not be surprised if things degenerate to the point of there being a severe trial and persecution against the Church. How we will respond will depend largely on whether Christ is first in our lives, and whether we have allowed Him to order all our other "values". If things get bad and we do not have Christ as our "Pearl" then we will not endure. If He is indeed the most important thing in our lives, then we can endure anything. As St John Vianney said, "for those whom God loves, trials are not punishments; they are graces." My dear brethren, pursue that priceless pearl which is Christ Himself. Then, and only then, can you stand fast in whatever comes our way. God bless you!