Pseudo-Homilies 23 – The Pearl

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
– Year A

As always, once again I will make an exception to the rule I have given myself, and I won’t focus on a single theme. At least I’d hope to be concise, but even that would be a (desired, unlikely) change.


On predestination (reprise)

Our first topic comes from the Second Reading, which in a way represents a continuation of our discourse on predestination addressed in the previous article.
In fact St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans parallels these two planes, which seem impossible to reconcile: the eternity of the creation, whereby God “already” knew everything “immediately”, and our becoming.
Are people “predestined” then?

Well, there’s a precise cadence of subsequent steps, as we read, for these children of God.







Now, there are two typical ways of reading this passage:

-the average Catholic may say something like: “Oh… well, the usual platitudes. There’s a peculiar form of aesthetic at play here, I guess.” And it gets right over their heads.
-And then there is the approach of a die hard, old style Protestant, who (if you find one) may go on the offensive: “See? There is predestination!”


Actually, if we were to consider things only from the point of view of God, who sees the whole picture in eternity, it isn’t obvious at all why, for what purpose, this whole series of steps was put in place. Development makes sense in our particular dimension, according to a process, a path, an evolution.
A predestination understood as fatalism, where you’re just like that, by design; like a computer running a program… That’s a scenario that doesn’t need this complex development.
No, the fact that there are many stages is precisely, I say, the sign of our participation. We are the ones who take this path, opting to continue according to the plans that God has created for us.
“Predestined” does not mean that, in this scheme, everything is already set in stone and you cannot do anything about it. On the contrary, it means that you have been prepared a place, but then you’re called: you must be the one to answer the call.

I think it is extremely instructive: to see that a text that could be interpreted as an obtuse confirmation of an immutable destiny, on the contrary reminds us that, despite the complexity of the thought of God that sees everything, this destiny of gratuitous love is not imposed on us against our will: it requires our voluntary participation.


The second topic concerns the Gospel, where we find a series of metaphors on the Kingdom of Heaven.


The pearl

But allow me to digress with an autobiographical note: the parable of the merchant who finds a precious pearl and sells everything he has to buy it, personally I cannot help but think it in connection with my love story with my wife: we met during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I saw that pearl in her, therefore I sold everything, I moved, I changed my life so as not to miss the treasure she represented. And however profane this comparison may be, after all the fact of dealing with a special person is intimately linked to her being a good person, and good precisely because she’s a Christian.
Excuse me while I point out this: we cannot really delude ourselves into finding the Kingdom of Heaven in a person we have fallen in love with, it is a danger and an exaggeration: we would be disappointed. Yet, despite all our human limitations, looking for someone who has this same idea of what constitutes good takes us in the right direction.

Solomon asked from God only one thing: wisdom. These days, the most important gift may be the wisdom of forming a family with someone who has the courage to go against the grain, who in her own small way seeks the Kingdom of Heaven.


Look towards the Kingdom

Interesting: this Kingdom of God is presented from two opposite angles.
First, as the precious pearl and the treasure found in a field, it’s seen from below, from the perspective of those who hope to conquer it, since they’re aware of how great this gift is.

But then the Kingdom is presented as a net which collects all sorts of fish; the angels then throw away the bad fish and keep the good fish.
This perspective is then one that comes from above, and it brings us back to the theme of the Last Judgment, already discussed last time.


At this point I have to overcome my temptation to embark myself in unnecessary explanations: the message is direct, easy to grasp. No need to editoralize.
Human stupidity is also found in this losing sight of the essential, beating around the bush and losing one’s focus and scope. Chasing unworthy goals, which don’t stand up to comparison. Or giving up the fight. And I’m the first to admit doing that: guilty as charged.

Let’s even assume that you, I, we, are not afraid of being thrown away, becoming part of what has to go in the eternal dumpster fire. Which must be way more than pretty bad.
But you have the opportunity to join the Infinite Good, and what do you do, don’t you rush to seize it? Don’t you give up everything else, to seek only that?

Here it is. A dazzling light.
Yet here I am, again, chasing some other time waster of an activity, throwing away another day.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1665) painting in high resolution by Johannes Vermeer. Original from the Mauritshuis Museum.


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