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Along the Way

Pearl of Great Price

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Last weekend the sixth book in the Harry Potter series came out. I and my children enjoy the series but I’m not going to talk about the series in general or its most recent installment. Rather, I want you to consider a scene from the first book in the series. Harry is an 11 year old orphan in this volume who is in his first year at a boarding school for wizards in training. He feels lonely over a school holiday. He has no place to go and wanders the school grounds. He discovers a room with a mirror. It is a strange mirror because when he looks in it he sees the loving images of his mother and father who died when he was an infant. Later he learns that this is the magical Mirror of Erised. When you look in the mirror you see your hearts desire. Imagine yourself standing in front of this magical mirror. What would you see?

In today’s gospel Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a buried treasure or to a pearl of great price. What could be of such great value that a person would sell everything he or she possesses in order to obtain it? We might discover the answer to this question if we consider what it is that we see when we look into the Mirror of Erised. What is our hearts greatest desire? What is our pearl of great price?

People first experienced hope in the Kingdom of God when they encountered Jesus Christ. He embodied the Kingdom; in Jesus the Kingdom of God broke into earthly reality as it began to unfold in human experience. Encountering Christ was an encounter with the Kingdom of God.

What was it like to encounter Christ? The perfection of Christ made one’s imperfections more apparent than ever, though now being aware of their need they could deal with it. Those who suffered from physical maladies, like the sick and lame, sought healing from Jesus. Those with moral imperfections, like the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears in repentance for her sins, sought moral healing. Those with spiritual imperfections, such as the man who said to Jesus, "I believe Lord, help my unbelief." found spiritual healing. These people experienced the Good News as salvation from the physical, moral and spiritual prisons in which they found themselves.

Yet, it wasn’t just the experience of freedom that attracted the people. It wasn’t just freedom that Jesus spoke of when talking about the Kingdom of God.

In the presence of Jesus you experienced holiness. God was present in the encounter and like the men on the way to Emmaus, your heart burned within you. In the presence of Jesus your imperfections seemed less burdensome and your possibilities seemed more probable. In the presence of Jesus you felt whole. Your life’s purpose was clear and God’s sustaining and healing love was palpable. Though you were imperfect and unworthy of God by any standard, an encounter with Christ made it clear that God still loved you. It was that knowledge that gave you the strength and hope to overcome your failings, to pursue your possibilities. It was that knowledge that made it clear to you that God still loved your very imperfect neighbors, despite all their imperfections. If God could love them even though they were unworthy of God’s love, you could love them as well and demonstrate that love through your actions.

No matter what we may see in the Mirror of Erised that vision boils down to the desire to love and to be loved. The Kingdom of God is the manifestation of God’s love for us. We see this first of all in Jesus Christ, who is the breaking into human experience of the Kingdom of God, and ultimately in a world transformed and characterized by love. We experience the Kingdom of God in forgiveness, in service, in seeking justice and in all of the many expressions of selfless love found in human experience; in this we not only enter into the Kingdom of God but embody it ourselves, so that those who encounter us are able to experience it as well.

Is this not a pearl of great price, a wondrous treasure? Is it not worth turning from all of our lesser pursuits in order to seek the Kingdom of God?

July 24, 2005; 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.