Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Pearl of Great Price

Father Ed is not a priest who stops to tell jokes from the altar, nor does he jest about the UM or MSU football scores.  When acting as a priest, he acts with the seriousness a priest should.  So it was a bit of surprise when he stepped to the front of the altar after mass, and spoke to us.  After wishing us all Merry Christmas, he said he had to tell us what happened at a recent religious ed class in our parish.
He said the topic of the class was the parable in Matthew about the pearl of great price, and the class teacher asked the kids: “What is the pearl of great price?”  There was a pause, and the teacher waited for someone to answer that it was the kingdom of heaven, which is worth giving up everything we have to attain.  Finally a hand went up, and when the teacher called upon him the young boy answered: “The pearl of great price is us.  Jesus left God the Father and heaven to come to earth; He gave up all that for us.”
Fr. Ed paused to let us think about that answer for a moment, and then he said: “We have a theologian blossoming in our midst.”  After another short pause he added: “He’ll probably be after my job pretty soon.”  Then he turned around to go back up the altar, but he paused again and said: “Then again, by the time he gets old enough to take my job, I’ll probably want to give it to him.”
Jesus came for us, all you “pearls of great price.”   Think about it.  Even a little kid figured it out.
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I had my great Christmas dinner tonight; the young bartender I had invited never showed.  It was just as well, because the day had other plans for me.  I had said that it was many years since I had made a grand Christmas dinner, like the ones I had when I was a kid, with a great big turkey and all the fixings.  I looked forward to that this year, even if eating alone.  I had thought I would put dinner on, and while it was cooking I would look at some old pictures this afternoon, read some old blog posts, and perhaps even run some old films.  It would be a relaxing day of memories, and if the invitee showed up, well maybe he would find it interesting too. 
Yep, thems wuz my plans. 
Did I mention that I hadn’t made a full dinner like that in many a year?  Well, it seems I remembered how good such a dinner was --- and it really was delicious, but I kind of forgot how it got that way.  It got that way with a lot of work.
From the time I arrived home at around noon, until dinner was ready at 5, I never sat down.  Slicing and dicing and browning and mixing --- it wasn’t just “shove it in the oven and forget it” like I remembered.  Oh, I’m not complaining, it was an enjoyable afternoon, as I went about cooking while listening to Christmas carols ---- I think I played all the Christmas CDs I had.  And, --- and this is really amazing --- it all came together perfectly.  Everything was done at exactly the same time, and I served myself a piping hot Christmas dinner, and I loved it.
I lit a single candle at the center of the dinner table, in memory of mom, on this first Christmas without her.  I remembered her, but I enjoyed the day, other guests or not.  And I ended up with 8 plates of leftovers, which I arranged and put away for other nights of good eating, or so I planned.  But even this plan didn’t quite go as I expected.
I stopped at the 7-11 for an after dinner coffee, to both calm my stomach and to keep me awake, as I headed to the chapel to say my night prayers.  At the store though, the young man behind the counter commented that he was pulling a 12-hour shift.  And so when I asked him if he was having a Christmas midnight dinner, he said: “I think I’ll have to skip the Christmas dinner this year.”
Well, what do you think I did?  So the guy I invited didn’t come to dinner, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t someone else hungry.  So I went home and got him a couple of the leftover plates, some gravy, and a piece of cheesecake that I had bought for dessert.  When I came back to the store and gave it to him you’d have thought he just won the lottery.  His smile was so big and he stuttered so much trying to say thanks that I kind of stepped back a bit.  It seemed like he was getting himself stirred up to give me a big bear hug or something, so I got out of there pretty fast.
And Jesus was waiting for me at the chapel.  And I think He was a little pleased at how my day had gone.  That’s good, because so was I.  In some way, I felt like a pearl of great price.  His plans for my day went just great.
Oh --- that fire I was going to have in the fireplace tonight?  Well, I guess that will have to be tomorrow night, but that’s not a problem.  You do remember that the feast of Christmas is an octive, don’t you, which is celebrated for 8 days?  Tomorrow is only the second day of Christmas; so there’s lots of time to have that Christmas fire.    

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