Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How much is a pearl worth anyway?

Parable of the Pearl
A Reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time (June 21, 2016)

2Kings 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36
Psalm 48
Holy Gospel According to Matthew 7:6, 12-14

When I was fourteen years old my grandfather gave me my first bible.  Not that we didn't already have bibles in our home, but this one was 'mine.'   I began to study it and go to bible studies on Wednesday nights.  A friend of mine invited me to a 'lock in' service at a Christian school in Wise, Virginia.   My mom and dad said I could go and I was excited.   Not just because I had a thirst for all things to do with God, but because here I was going to spend an entire night locked in a gym with kids my own age.  I did not realize that it was going to be a night that changed my life forever.

Halfway through the night they had an altar call.  I had no intention of going up but I found myself led to the steps.   I knelt down at the base of the platform and began to cry and gave my life to Christ to serve Him with all that I was.  I am still learning what that means, and I've made mistakes on the way, but I have never lost that passion that I felt that night, that yearning to be one with God.   I spent many years arguing, fighting, defending the faith in anyway I could.   I felt I had to make people believe, time was short and they just didn't see.   So I wanted to grab their heads, turn their eyes to Christ and demand that they open them and realize the beauty of what I had found.  It wasn't until many years of this struggle of trying to proselytize that I even began to realize there was a difference in what I was doing, and what I was called to do.   Evangelization.  An offer, not a threat.   An invitation given in peace and love, not forced in fear and hate.

The first reading reminds us of how the world behaves towards our God, our faith.  Hezekiah has just received a letter from an opposing King.  The letter mocks and taunts the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.   What does Hezekiah do?  He doesn't try to force Sennacherib to see the light, he doesn't even try to speak to him, but rather he goes to his knees in prayer and asks God to deal with it.  Why?  Because Sennacherib isn't going to listen.   He doesn't care what Hezekiah has to say.   All the fighting, arguing, and shouting in the world will never bring about conversion.   That's because it isn't our job to convert, it is not our job to convict either.   It's only our job to offer to those who are open to listening.

God reminds Hezekiah that He is the one in control.   He will protect His children and not a single one will be lost.   Then through a miracle in the night the army of Sennacherib suffers a massive loss and retreats to where they came from, without ever a blow from mortal hands.  He promises this in the name of David his servant, for He has promised that the Kingdom and throne of David will last for eternity.   That's the promise that we true, the Church, trust in.  Jesus is the fulfillment of that, the eternal and everlasting King from the line of David that will sit on the throne of judgement for all of eternity.

CCC 303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens". As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."

Jesus reminds us that He is the one in charge.   This is not our fight to win, not our argument to battle.  Rather, we are to be fruitful and loving.  We are to offer relationship with God to those who seek it, and to those who don't?  Peace and service. Oh how often we fail at this.   Arguing fruitlessly with those who were shut off to the message before we even began to speak it.   What we have been given is a glimpse of Heaven.  What we have is a relationship with Him who transcends time and space itself.  Something more treasured than anything else we could ever receive.   To offer that to someone who doesn't respect it, who has no interest in even attempting to understand it, well it's dangerous.   It hurts.   It saddens.  To watch someone take that which we hold dear and demean it, to make fun of it... Jesus compares that to casting your pearls before swine. A pig will taste a pearl, maybe even sniff it, but then realize it's not food and just mash it into the ground.

Why do we do this?  Are we afraid that Satan will win?  Jesus has promised that the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church.  God is in charge of conversion.  It is He who speaks to the heart.   We just share in faith when someone is open to it, and tell them of the great love and peace we find in Christ.   Then we give an example of that life through our actions.   We love.   We serve.  We feed, clothe, and give drink to those in need.  We have the unique and blessed opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God now, not just at the end of time, but right now!  God has given us the ability to do that by showering us with His grace through the Sacraments of the Holy Church, the New Zion.  Are you living in the place now?   That's where Mass takes you.  The book of Revelation gives you a glimpse of that eternity, that's why we in the Church follow that rubric of worship here and now... joining with the Angels and Saints around the altar of God with the Son of Man offering himself in Sacrifice at Calvary for our sins.   We then offer ourselves on that altar, joined with Christ, because we alone are not enough to appease the debt of our sin.. but He is.   This is the narrow gate through which we must enter.. through Christ himself.  Do you wish to know more about this "road that leads to life?" I am there to talk when you wish to hear.

Remember as well that parable about the pearl of great price?

Matthew 13:45-46
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Jesus is the merchant who sold all that he had.  He gave his life entirely for you.  He sacrificed all hnor, power, pleasure, and wealth to purchase you.   You are the pearl of great price.  Christian, do not allow the world to convince you to drag yourself through the mud of sin.  Rather hold yourself away from the world as a living Saint, whose dignity is that of a member of the Royal Family.  That we too might stand a chance to walk through that narrow gate into the Kingdom that is prepared for us, eternal in the Heavens.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."