Recently I was reminded of the great diversity in our church and how many times that diversity causes friction or tension among us. Let me give you one example in the choice of music during mass. There is no doubt this is an area were preferences for a certain music type is loudly expressed. There are many Catholics who prefer traditional music, Gregorian chants and prefer to listen rather than participate. On the other hand there are many Catholics who prefer the newer contemporary music with guitars and instead of listening they sing exuberantly and are often found clapping.
Both sides will often stop attending mass because the music is not to their taste or it offends their sense of what it means to worship. Music is only one area where these differences occur and create this tension within the Body of Christ. These differences cause me to reflect back and re-read the scriptures only to find this is an age old tension between people who believe in the same God.
The problem is what we believe should be often times does not leave room for God to do something new among us and wake us up to the reality of who we are called to be. The question I would ask is why we believe that these differences are not able to exist side by side in the kingdom of God. Paul was clear when he said “…I have become all things to all people so that (he) could win some for Christ” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul understood how these senseless debates and tensions hinder our ability to seek the pearl of great price.
When we focus on these side issues what we are truly arguing about is not the pearl of great price but the way the pearl is presented to us. When I think of this pearl Jesus tells us we must seek, I immediately think of how pearls are presented to us in jewelry. I think of the setting which surrounds the pearl. So when we debate about is it proper to kneel in adoration or stand in reverent awe we are losing sight of the single most important thing God did for us – restore us to righteousness by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came that we might have life, fill us with peace and cause joy to flow from us because of his sacrifice.
When we disdain those who embrace charismatic prayer because we find quiet adoration to be more proper we are losing sight of the pearl of great price. We have become closed to the reality of encountering Jesus who is right before our eyes as he was to the Pharisees of his day. If you think I am off base, I invite you to once again read the scriptures and especially how Jesus was rejected by the religious elite of his day.
Let me give you one example from the scriptures – Saul of Tarsus. Saul stood by as Stephen was being stoned; he approved and endorsed his stoning because he blasphemed. Steven’s professing Jesus Christ did not comply with the norms of religion according to the so called “true believers.” Saul believing those who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah were wrong set out to arrest, imprison and even execute them for their departure from the true faith.
Saul on his way to Damascus to continue his mission of rounding up these false believers encountered Christ. I found it interesting that Jesus did not condemn Paul or chastise him for his arrogance and punish him for his sin against God. No, instead he asked him a question, “…why are you persecuting me.” Why do you reject me Saul? Why is your heart hardened against me Saul? The question was not why are you persecuting those who believe in me but why are you so fixed in your ways that you cannot see who I am.
That one story in the scriptures should remind us that we often times are focused on the “setting of the pearl of great price” instead of making our focus the Pearl itself.
If we can move from looking at how Christ is presented to us and learn to seek Jesus we will find the setting is not important. In fact, we may find that the setting restricts how many different ways Christ can excite our hearts. There is a great lesson in the parable of the pearl of great price. We can never be comfortable with just finding the pearl – we must do all we can to possess it. There is a huge difference between those two positions.
The key to overcoming all that divides us is in finding and selling all we have to possess the pearl of great price. When we do that then we easily are able to embrace the differences between us as the diversity of the Body inviting all to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
You are here in the pews today because you are seeking and are comfortable with what you believe because you feel you have found as the right formula for practicing your faith.
But Jesus comes along and tells us how short we fall if all we have done is to find the pearl of great price. Christ is offering us eternal life and that life is found in him and him alone. He is the Pearl of Great price not the setting on which the pearl is mounted.
Consider this week if you are seeking to possess the pearl of great price or are you satisfied with just living in the area where the pearl is found.