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?