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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where Your Heart Is

I've started this post several times, and for some reason, I can't seem to find the words. And so I ask your forgiveness for what promises to be a very disconnected post.

The trip to Ohio was incredible and while it WAS all fun and games, I met our Lord there, too. For He seeks us out wherever we are and speaks in quiet moments, and even amidst chaos where we'd least expect to find Him.

Being that we attended Mass both with Fr. V. and again on Sunday with Fr. S., I heard the Gospel of the Pearl of Great Price twice, and, between the two homilies, the full impact of that Gospel was brought home to me. And I really think the events of Friday and Saturday had prepared me for the message. At the Vatican Splendors exhibit, I was stopped in my tracks as I gazed upon the Ciborium and Chalice. It wasn't the artistry or the preciousness of the metal or anything else. It is what they had contained. And right there, silently, unwaveringly, I stared into the chalice and made a confession of faith: "Oh, Lord, I BELIEVE!"

I didn't care about the value of the items, but the Sacrament that binds us, that holds us close to Our Lord. I think, maybe in that moment, one of my personal walls came down as I looked past the material and saw the eternal. How appropriate, then, was the Gospel for Sunday; it was as if Jesus was speaking DIRECTLY to me.

Fr. V., in his homily, spoke of the pearl in the parable in a way I've never heard, although his words carried forth a theme that had also struck me in the past. He spoke of how Jesus sees US as the pearl of great price, and He gave EVERYTHING in order to possess us. The truth of his words hit their mark, and my typical interior struggle began, for, you see, I have a REALLY difficult time seeing myself as "the pearl of great price." Oh, sure, my birthstone is a pearl, but that's just coincidence, right? Yet I can't honestly deny the value of my life in God's eyes...for I could look up and see exactly what dignity He gave me (and all of us!) by dying on the cross in agony and humiliation. Yet our Lord did not die to possess a puny stone obtained from a sea creature; He died for US. To Him, we are worth FAR more than some pretty rock.

At Mass that evening, in the quiet after Communion, Our Lord spoke to me. Not in words, but in understanding. I've written before of my sense of being a pilgrim on earth, having a certain "rootlessness" that I can't really explain. Maybe being away from home and all the responsibilities and attachments of my everyday life was necessary, but right there, I realized I was "home". It's not about the location or the church, but the Mass. No matter where I go on earth, that's as close to Home as any of us will get until we go "beyond the veil". I was, in a true sense, a pilgrim this weekend, experiencing a taste of real freedom, and realizing that whether I am in Minneapolis, or Akron, or Oaxaca, if there is Mass, I'm home. Wherever Jesus can be found, there I want to be.

On Sunday, Fr. S. spoke of the more common translation of the gospel, completing the lesson, calling my attention to the choice between what is material and what is real. Christ is our Pearl, and more valuable than any pearl. When we recognize who He is, how can we not be changed forever? Why in the world would we NOT want to leave everything to follow Him wherever He leads? And truly, the place I call "home" which is really just a box I keep my stuff in, can't possibly contain my most valuable possession.

My attention was drawn to the dichotomy of my life; if I can’t let go of those things I so willingly embrace, I am not free to possess the Pearl, nor am I allowing Jesus to possess me. Both interpretations of this Gospel are needed; both call us to conversion. Both call us to recognize where we are...and WHO we are called to become.

Our lives are not our own; they were given to us as a gift, but ultimately, our lives belong to God and we are called to, in proper turn, offer this great gift back according to our Call.

Maybe this weekend my attention was called to the fact that I already possess the pearl of great price; and I am in turn possessed by Him. I think Jesus already has me, heart and soul, and I know that as long as I have Him, I need nothing more.


For those who read my previous post early on, I updated it this morning to include our foray into the dark mean, the bell tower. But there's more.

When Fr. V. and Fr. S. went into the tower and climbed, I remained at the bottom at first, held back by two fears; my fear of spiders, and my fear of ladders. As a child, I fell through a ladder-hole much like the ones in the tower, and while I felt I could climb up with no problem, I knew I'd have to come back down. And so I agonized. I SO DESPERATELY wanted to climb to the top! I am not afraid of heights, thankfully, and I knew my fears were irrational. And so I struggled with myself, I paced, and truly, I could think of a thousand good reasons to climb the tower. And I knew that, if someone were dying, I'd be up there in a flash, undeterred. So why, I asked myself, couldn't I climb without such motivation? What was I REALLY afraid of, for really, I knew my fears were just ghosts? The Fathers would have cleared away any webs through their ascent. And the ladders were sturdy, much easier to climb than any of our Fire Dept. ladders. And physically, there was nothing holding me back.

Just ghosts.

Finally, thoroughly disgusted with myself, I didn't climb the tower; I attacked it. It was all-out assault. And once I began and got to the first level, I knew I'd finish; because it isn't in me to quit once I've taken that step. The ONLY possible outcome for this was to reach the top. Nothing else was acceptable.

(Granted, there was a certain non-virtue of cyber-bros were up there and I couldn't let them show me up!)

The next day, 30,000 feet or so above the midwest, I suddenly saw the bell tower in a new light. There, looking out the plane window at the earth below, I asked God to reveal His will for me, to help me understand Him and what happened this weekend.

He didn't reveal himself...he revealed me.

The tower, my agony at the base of it...that is my spiritual life. That's my discernment. That's what I do. He just made me live it out physically.

One of my biggest battles is this: I don’t tend to focus on what is immediately in front of me, but rather, the entirety of an obstacle. Sometimes this is a gift, but when it comes to something important, something personal, I can't seem to break it down. To use the bell tower as a parable, I don’t see only one story; I look at one portion and see what is required for them all. The entire spectrum pushes me backward and I plummet to the ground, terrified I’ll never make it – so why even try?

It’s not one thing with me; it’s several things. It’s not what’s exterior; it’s what’s interior. The battle is not with the elements that surround me; it’s with myself.

God spoke to me this weekend, very quietly, very personally, forcing me to see who I am and who He created me to be. And who am I to turn Him down? I know where my treasure is and I know that I should stop at nothing to possess it.

Thank you, Jesus.


Unknown said...

Adoro, you'll have to give a full report on the Vatican Splendors exhibit. It's coming here in September.

I just got approved for volunteering and my training session is August 20.

As I'd hoped, I was selected for polishing and guarding the Pieta! They are going to issue me one of those Swiss Guard pikes or halberds and a helmet in case any dissidents attempt to make trouble.

Fr. V said...


Anonymous said...

BAck in 94, there was a vatican teasures exhibit in Denver w/ WYD. we went. I didn't know there were laser eye beams watching the pieta, and I got very close, to examine some detail... did not touch, but got very close. Next thing I knew, an armed guard was by my side asking me to step back. He saw the shock on my face, and showed me the laser-eyes. Thankfully, he saw I had good intentions. A very close call!

Unknown said...

Just so some won't be disappointed, the Pieta will NOT be in St. Paul for the Vatican Splendors exhibit.

That's a little joke that got created when we were recruiting volunteers.

But I did get a Swiss Army helmet for my effort. I'll have to put it on my Facebook page.

Mark said...

thanks for posting the perspective on the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field. A nice complementarity.