Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
I know many parents who send their kids to a Catholic school for all the wrong reasons. Their rational is simple: If my child goes to such-and-such school, then their chances are better in getting into this-or-that school. And if they get into this-or-that school, then chances are they will get into the school of our choice! Parents even go so far as to tell their children this: “Remember: Concentrate on Math, Science, English (and a foreign language). Don’t worry about everything else…like religion.”
But as a priest, I can tell you that if a child screws up in his life, it wasn’t because they didn’t know enough math or science or English or a foreign language. It was because they didn’t know who they were meant to be and because they didn’t know who God is! That is the honest to God truth!
What is it worth to gain the whole world and lose your soul!
When I graduated from college with my MS degree, I thought I was God’s greatest gift to mankind. The girls thought I was too. In fact, the year I landed my first job, single ladies were inviting me to attend their parties, or go to lunches or dinners with them. I, of course, loved all the attention.
The very first relationship I ever had was with a young lady I had met at work. She was beautiful on the outside and I was very much attracted to her. I invited her out a few times. Our conversations were superficial. I loved that! And I started dating her. On Christmas Eve, six months later, I gave her diamond earrings. She was thrilled! She began to cry. I can’t even remember what she got me, but I knew I had hit the jackpot with my gift! I was suspecting that it would be a very romantic evening.
Then…she said something that wiped the smile off my face and blew my mind away! Through her tears of joy she said to me, “You know…when we get married…” I couldn’t believe she was saying these words. I was scared, nervous and confused. I couldn’t believe that it had gotten to this point. I couldn’t believe that she was thinking so far ahead. But, then, I thought to myself, “Why not? Sure…I mean…I cared about her, I thought I loved her…so…I guess it made sense.” She continued, “When we get married, I don’t want to work anymore.” I told her, “I understand. After all, when we have children, you really shouldn’t work.”
With that, her smile disappeared. She was shocked, stunned and surprised! Her tone expressed her horror. She said to me, “Children? Children? You want to have children? I don’t want to have children…I want to have dogs!”
Believe me when I tell you this. For me, and from that moment on, I thought she was the strangest person I had ever met! She may have been beautiful on the outside, but inside, she was something entirely different. Mind you, I was not religious, I was not a churchgoer, and I wasn’t even a very good man. But! I did know that I wanted children. I did know that I wanted to have a family. I at least understood that these things were important, good and right. Besides, I didn’t want to worry about walking on poop all my life!
I never saw her again. My only regret was that we had had this conversation AFTER I had given her those two diamond earrings! I learned many good lessons from this “relationship”. For example, I learned that interior beauty was just as important (if not more important) than exterior beauty. I learned that I had some deep seated beliefs, and I began to investigate why I had these deep seated beliefs. It all came back to me. What I had learned in religion, was actually know important to me. This relationship began a Big Bang in my life that continues today.
What’s it worth to gain the whole world and lose your soul? What’s it worth to be popular, attractive, intelligent, ambitious, rich, selfish, spoiled and vain; and lose your soul? Zero! Nothing!
As I was driving home that night, I was asking this very same question. I thought I had asked it first. Little did I realize that someone else had asked it before me?