Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt. 13:44-52
Once there was a cheerful, bouncy, eight year old girl who fell in love with a necklace of costume jewelry, a string of pearls. She pleaded with her father to buy it. “Please” she said. “It’s only ten dollars, please?” Her father was so loving he couldn’t resist her request. She wore the necklace every chance she had. It made her feel beautiful and grown up.
At bed time her father would come upstairs and read a story to her. One night when he finished reading he asked, “Do you love me?” His little daughter replied, “Oh yes, Daddy, I love you.” Then he said, “May I have your pearl necklace?” Tickled by the thought, she laughed saying, “Daddy! You can’t wear pearls.” He smiled and replied, “I guess you’re right,” and he kissed her good night. Next evening, after reading a story, he said, “Jenny, do you really love me?” She responded with a beautiful smile and shining eyes. “Daddy, I do. I do love you!” Again he asked the unthinkable, “May I have your pearls?” This time she didn’t laugh, but looking straight into his eyes she said, “Oh, let me give you my kisses instead.” She kissed him and he said, “Thank you, Jenny. I love you, too.”
The next night he asked for her necklace again. His daughter was shaken, “Please, Daddy, not my pearl necklace. Please? You know I love you.” And he did. So he said to her, “Yes, I know you love me. You are so precious.”
Once again, the following night he came to read a bedtime story. When he entered her room Jenny was sitting on the bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came closer, he noticed her chin was trembling and a tear rolled down her cheek. He asked, “What is it, Jenny, what’s the matter?” She extended her hands toward him, and there, resting in her palms, was the pearl necklace. With a quiver and a smile she said, “Here, Daddy, it’s for you. I want you to have it. I love you.” With tears forming in his own eyes, Jenny’s father reached out with one hand and took away the string of costume pearls. With his other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case nesting a golden chain of genuine pearls and gave them to her. She opened her mouth wide, gasping at their beauty, and then she flung her arms around his neck kissing him with tears of joy. All the time he was waiting for her to give up her attachment to a costume necklace out of love for him and he would give her genuine treasure.
If we do not experience the joy of giving up whatever is asked of us for love of God, perhaps it is because we are more in love with our costume jewelry than with God. Let us not be afraid to follow Jesus, to suffer some emptying of self because “the sufferings of the present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed,” (Rom 8:18).