Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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By Bishop Larry Silva
July 26, 2020
[St. Anthony Retreat Center, Kalihi (50th Anniversary of the Hawaii Catholic Charismatic Renewal)]
I have to admit that I would be hard-pressed to know the difference between a pearl of great value and a K-Mart pearl. While I am sure some people here may have a discerning eye to tell one from another, it is not a trait that I have developed – or intend to develop. Of course, Jesus, in mentioning pearls, is not really talking about pearls. It does not take much wisdom to know that he is using this as an analogy for the greatest treasure of all, the kingdom of God.
Since God wants us all to live in his kingdom, why does he not just open the door and let everyone in? Why is entering the kingdom often such a long and arduous search? Why must it be like buried treasure that one cannot simply stumble upon but must be committed to dig up, even when the digging will often lead to dead ends and nothing but good old dirt?
The Lord, of course, knows that things that are just handed to us without effort often go unappreciated. We can take them for granted and even feel entitled to them. If the pearl of the kingdom is a relationship with God himself through Jesus, we know that the best relationships are those we are willing to invest ourselves in. The love of spouses and even of intimate friends is honed over the years by ups and downs, by good times and bad, by simply being present to each other whether the encounter is exciting or whether it is a little boring. The more we invest ourselves in digging into a friendship, the greater the reward will be. And so it is with our friendship with Jesus. He does not simply hand it to us on a silver platter, but he requires that we work at our friendship with him, so that we can show how much we value it.
What keeps us going in this quest for the love of God that we experience in the kingdom but the Holy Spirit, who guides us silently along the way? It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom to know when something is truly good for us and for others, something we should truly treasure; and when it only seems good but actually is a cheap imitation of the real thing. It is the Holy Spirit who has been at the center of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, whose fiftieth anniversary in Hawaii we celebrate this weekend. He not only guides us to know where to look for the treasure of the Lord’s love, but he steers us away from false promises. He not only gives us the initial spark of motivation to seek out God’s love, but he sustains us when we are weary and holds us up when we are ready to give up the search.
We are shown the example of King Solomon, who was led by the Spirit not to ask for long life or victory over his enemies, but for wisdom in ruling over his people, in fulfilling the particular mission that God had entrusted to him. Note, however, that it was while he was asleep that this beautiful exchange with the Lord took place. He was not in control. He was not consciously calling the shots, but he was docile and open to hear the voice of God even in his dreams. Isn’t this the beauty of the Holy Spirit, who illuminates our minds and hearts most effectively when we are docile, when we let go of our control, and when we allow him to speak?
There are many treasures the Lord wants us to uncover, but, as is his ancient way, he makes us long for and work for what we truly desire, because the desiring is itself a road that leads to him. So we desire a good community that works together to value each person in dignity and love. We know how hard this is. Yes, it is easy when we come together for retreats and the treasure of the Lord and his beloved people is right before our eyes. But it is not so easy when we encounter the person who is mean to us, or who is drugged and perhaps dangerous. It is not so easy when someone is smelly because he has not home and no place to wash. It is not so easy when people disagree with us. Yet it is in these encounters that the Holy Spirit moves us to dig deeper and to see the great value of the person before us. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom to know even how to love our enemies and those who hate and persecute us. To do so is to dig deeper into the treasure of the kingdom.
In these days of civil unrest, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is essential. Otherwise we can easily jump on bandwagons without being truly committed to the treasure of the other who is different from us. It is too easy to shout out our opposition to racism, but not so easy to dig out its roots in our hearts and in our culture. Sometimes jumping on the bandwagon can actually worsen the situation because it sharply defines one against another. While true wisdom from the Holy Spirit allows us to see real differences on the surface but in the depths real solidarity.
In preaching the gospel, which is the mission of every follower of Jesus, we can easily be lulled into thinking that just saying the right words is all we need to do. But the Holy Spirit makes us docile and helps us realize that in some situations merely a word is needed, while in others, a slow, decades-long softening of the ground is what is needed to just plant the seed of faith.
Yes, we sometimes think it would be wonderful if everyone could experience the love of the Lord that we typically experience very palpably on a retreat. But God knows that if we are truly to find the pearl of great price of the kingdom, we must be willing to invest ourselves even when it is dry and difficult; even when we are rejected or persecuted; even when we have to give up everything we own. It was Jesus our Lord who first invested everything he had to excavate the hardness of our hearts by giving his life for us on the cross, and it is the risen Jesus who pours out his Holy Spirit upon us to keep us faithful to the quest for the hidden riches of the kingdom of God.