Priceless

This week, we celebrate a real milestone in the discipleship of three of the chief Apostles: Peter, James and John. Jesus calls just these three to the mountain and, in their presence, unveils his glory. He appears to them as transfigured, his body glorified, his garments as light and, as central in importance, in the company of Moses and Elijah.

It is actually just a happy coincidence that this feast lands on a Sunday this year. The Transfiguration is always on the 6th of August. Especially in my own preparation, this celebration proves a truly providential moment that acts as a turning point in this recent curriculum on the kingdom and discipleship; from here the focus shifts to the more intimate call to know and walk with Christ as a close friend, not from afar as a stranger.

For this reflection, I will expound on two of the words that have been guiding my own prayer, as they come to a culmination in this week’s Gospel. The words to keep in mind are “the Kingdom” and “worthy,” as we intersect this life-changing encounter with Jesus upon the mount of Transfiguration.

As an aside, please be aware that each of the parables Jesus proposes are worth volumes. Here they will be dramatically oversimplified, according to how they have impacted my own prayer these many weeks.

On the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus began this catechesis on the Kingdom of God, by offering a first parable of the sower who casts seed liberally in a field where seed landed on various types of soil. Perhaps the best lesson to glean, in just a few short words, is that it is at once easy to be exposed to the Good News and yet fail to receive the gift of faith. Many are the traps and snares for the seeds of the Kingdom that prevent it from germinating.

The following week, Jesus presents several parables to illustrate the nature of the Kingdom on earth. 1) The sower whose field is sabotaged with weeds: God does not wish to tear out the weeds, so as to preserve the growing wheat, but will judge between the weeds and wheat after the harvest. 2) The mustard seed: when we find faith, the Kingdom of God is a great comfort and shelter. 3) The yeast: as the Kingdom is spread through the dough of humanity, it brings lightness and goodness to all the loaf.

Just last Sunday, then, Jesus tells the parables of the treasure buried in a field and of the pearl of great price. To me, these both speak of finding a great treasure, and thus the second message about discipleship, and that second word I mentioned earlier, “worthy.” In these two parables, the man finds something of such great value, that he sells all he has to buy that priceless treasure.

When we find such a thing, we would sooner die than go without that pearl of great price. It is of such value, so great in its beauty, that nothing could be demanded of us that we would withhold to gain the pearl. Now “worthy” is very different from “worth it,” a phrase we use with flippancy and often sarcasm. “Worthy” evokes a certain gravity, a serious accounting of what has been done and found to be of tremendous value.

When it comes to God, we must recognize just how desperate we are to obtain the treasure of the Kingdom. Once we understand that, our response rises from a kind of glad assent to willing foolishness for the sake of obtaining the prize of intimacy with God. So full is his friendship, so comprehensive his acceptance of us, so warm his love, there could be nothing to compare with knowing him. You might recall much of the song I sang last weekend, “Faithful to Your Call,” by Jim Cowan drew this together.

This brings us to today’s feast where Christ reveals himself in his divine glory to Peter, James and John. After these weeks of education on the kingdom, its nature and its value through the eyes of these most privileged of disciples, we see the pearl of great price; we are shown the worthy treasure buried beneath the ordinary soil of humanity. In Jesus, we see the Kingdom enfleshed. In him, we see the hope for the cure of the sickness of our souls.

Like Peter, we can only exclaim in our bewilderment, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” (Matthew 17:4) The subsequent step in this intensive discipleship crash course comes next week, when the Lord turns it all back on us: Jesus, walking on water, no less, commands us simply, “Come.”

David Dunst

Music Director

 

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