In the world there is chaos. It is up to us to bring order out of chaos. In order to have order and peace we must mature in our priorities, get our act together, and learn to control the chaos in our lives, with the Grace of God. This is wisdom. We need wisdom.
It is easy to discover and measure the maturity of a person by their values and priorities, and how well defined these are; Which ones are more important? Perhaps it is their faith and their hope for eternal life. Perhaps it is their family. Perhaps it is their work. Maybe it is sports. Perhaps it is simply pleasure.
It is a tragic situation when a person has no demonstrable or defined values or priorities to guide them through the chaos of their lives. In their immaturity they are lost, living in chaos. They lack wisdom.
It is sad when people allow their personal habits to become more important than other people, such as happens when people allow themselves to become prisoners of alcohol, drugs, sex, or even abusive anger to the detriment of themselves and others.
You can understand a great deal about a person by recognizing what is truly important to him or her. I wish more couples preparing for marriage spent more time learning these things about each other. Our priorities determine the direction of our lives. Why would a soldier throw himself on a live grenade to save his companions unless he gave more value to the well-being of others?
Today, we continue with Jesus’ parables, which speak of priorities and values, when he says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
We should all possess a treasure that is so precious that we would sell everything to possess it. In my own case, I will share with you that my pearl of great price has been my faith and the Church. Later, it included my marriage and our family. These treasures have shaped and guided me almost all of my adult life. When my wife died, these values continued shaping my options and decisions, with the help of God.
Likewise, our misplaced priorities can cause us immense chaos and pain. When you observe or experience pain take a close look at the related priorities. Allow me to point out some examples of such misplaced priorities.
Wives come to me once in a while telling me that their spouses don’t want to be married to them anymore. Perhaps these men say things to them, like,
“I want to be happy! Don’t I have a right to be happy?”
These men reveal by their statements and actions that they do not possess a value beyond themselves. They reveal that their own happiness is more valuable than their marriages, their spouses and their children. Perhaps they are alcoholics, or addicted to drugs or sex outside marriage. They are selfish, immature, like children whose cares are only for themselves, regardless of the pain they are causing their families. They lack wisdom of heart.
Another example involving those whose priorities are misplaced: In my experience as a deacon candidate years ago, we were instructed frequently that our Sacrament of Holy Matrimony always held a higher priority than our diaconal ministry. Marriage came first, then our jobs, because our marriage involved our commitment to support our families. Only when we had satisfied these responsibilities were we free to exercise our diaconal ministry. I have known men who placed their ministry above their marriages and families, telling their spouses that they should understand that the Church came first. This is wrong, and has caused a great deal of pain.
Today, as a widower, I am free to pursue being a priest, a spouse of the Church. My responsibilites to my family have been met. I am married to the Church, and there is no other priority that can come between us. This is the only way I can be your Pastor.
When I hear the public discussions about “married priests” I know this discussion to be groundless and not well thought out. If the Church cannot first define which Sacrament has priority (Holy Orders or Marriage?), then there can only be chaos and pain. The Church should not go in this direction. The priesthood isn’t a job, it is a priority relationship, much like marriage. There can be no competition between spouse and Church. There can be no married priesthood unless this matter of priority is resolved. Something always has to have the higher priority, and it should always be marriage and family.
Once in a while a man will say to me his work is more important than his family. Such conflicts cause a great deal of pain.
Another example of misplaced priorities and serious, painful problems occurs when one of the marriage partners is confused with respect to the priority relationships in the marriage.
Before marriage the priorities should be:
First, parents; second brothers and sisters and family; third friends. We can all see when adolescents begin to be confused in their priorities telling their families that their friends are more important.
After marriage the priorities should change to permit a healthy marriage.
First comes the marriage partner. This person becomes the permanent, “biggest baby” of the other partner; for life.
Second comes children. If they get the first and second priorities confused, there will be pain.
Third comes parents.
Only then come siblings and friends.
This order of priority is essential for a peaceful, successful marriage. Anything else brings chaos and pain. We should never be surprised that separation and divorce happen when these priorities are confused.
Priorities. Which is first? Which is second? What is most important? We had better figure this out! We had better get these straight and get our act together. These guide our decisions and our lives. If they get out of order these can be a source of unlimited pain and division.
Our sacramental life should be our priority, including our marriage. When we find a pearl of great price, we should sell everything else to possess it.