In today's Gospel Jesus compares heaven to a treasure
and to a pearl of great price.
I have seen treasures. The Sultan's golden throne in the Topkapi Palace
in Istanbul, encrusted with diamonds and rubies. The Crown Jewels in
the Tower of London. A Faberge egg given by Czar Nicholas to Alexandra.
The Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian. A first edition of Moby Dick in
the Morgan Library.
Christians and other religious people and even secular humanists agree that
the possession of such treasures will not guarantee happiness, and may even
destroy happiness. This month I've regularly been seeing even greater
treasures -- around and in swimming pools, municipal pools, and at clubs
and backyards and at Creighton. The treasures are the children enjoying
the cool water -- toddlers, grade- and junior high schoolers. I've
watched their parents and grandparents, they and I both delighting in the
health and vitality of the next generations. I've even been touched
by the smile of a three-year-old who was not healthy, a boy who spent his
first 13 months in a hospital 60 miles from his parents' rural home, a child
who had a tracheotomy shortly after birth and who still must be fed through
a tube in his tummy. This boy sings scales, builds with blocks,
runs about and hugs his mom and dad and the trunks of trees. He is
a treasure greater than the Sultan's throne.
Jesus said that the merchant would sell all that he had to buy the pearl
of great price. Our children are our foretaste of heaven, and the parents
I know will give everything they can for the welfare of their offspring.
Besides today's Gospel, we have a reading from Jeremiah. With all the
world's bad news, I don't much like listening to that cranky old prophet,
with his cries of woe and strife and contention. A little of that goes
a long way. But after thinking about these readings, which also include
allusions to enemies and distress, I realized that they do fit together.
Jeremiah's call to repentance reminds us to turn from those desires and actions
that keep us from heaven, turning away too from what will hurt our innocent
children. We must turn instead towards what will bring them healthy
growth and fulfillment. Jeremiah and the Psalmist promise us mercy
if we work for a just and praise-filled environment, a world pleasing to
children, to God, a world that is our first step towards heaven.
Did you make your installment payment on heaven today? Did I?