The Readings for St Alphonsus Liguouri, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Wednesday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Gloriatus sum a facie manus tuae : solus sedebam, quoniam comminatione replesti me. Quare factus est dolor meus perpetuus, et plaga mea desperabilis renuit curari? facta est mihi quasi mendacium aquarum infidelium.
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!
Jeremiah has figured out that following this God leaves us alone, broken off from the world and the objects of ridicule. And yet God sends us back into the world. Jeremiah says it’s like being tricked. A few chapters later (20:7) he’ll utter these sorrowful, rich words:
Seduxisti me, Domine, et seductus sum : You have seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced : fortior me fuisti, et invaluisti : factus sum in derisum tota die, omnes subsannant me. I am become a laughing-stock all the day, all scoff at me.
Even for someone deeply in love with God as a Prophet the question can appear, from time to time, “Why can’t I be normal?” I don’t think this is the same thing as, “Can I go back to Egypt?” Many faithful folks dwell in the Suburbs, if you will, of Mammon City. I think of the idea of Israel here, where faithful, pious Jews could dwell in their prayer and their daily lives, sanctifying time, but certainly living in it. Jeremiah and all the prophets down to John the Baptist live beyond the edge. This love stings. And I think it’s ok – even expected a little – for them to want to have something normal. Sure, serving God is great and all, but why do I have to go all the way?
Simile est regnum caelorum… Iterum simile est regnum caelorum…
The Kingdom of Heaven is like… and again the Kingdom of Heaven is like…
The preacher apologizes if he misspeaks here, but everyone misses a very fine point here. These two images come together for a reason, a very important reason.
In the first of these Similes (quite literally in the Latin, Simile est) the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a Treasure Hidden in a Field. And when someone – say you or me – finds the Treasure, we sell everything to buy the Field.
But in the second one, the Kingdom of Heaven is not the pearls. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a Merchant who goes looking for pearls. And when He – say Jesus – finds the pearls – say you or me – he sells everything he has to buy the pearls.
This Love is worth everything for God who gave everything, even his life, to capture the Pearls of Great Price: you and me. Can you see here how greatly God loves us? Can you see here why it is that we must also give up everything and all things less to take possession of this Kingdom? So greatly are we loved, how can we not love back?
We might think we can go back to being normal. But no… once you taste this love, once you see this light, nothing else can ever be the same. Sins that used to be fun… dull. Things you used to think were love… turn out to be dross. Even the legitimate enjoyments of the world seem brief and passing when viewed in their right perspective. What we have here, real though it is, in its pains and even in its joys, it a shadow of the real stuff. My beloved has paid for my reality.
This love cost God everything to buy the pearls…
For us to offer anything less than everything in return seems a bit selfish, n’est-ce pas?