January 25, 2015
ORDINARY 3 (B)
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
– Mark 1: 14
In James Michener’s novel about South Africa, the following incident was described: “in the blue clay, they discovered more diamonds in one day than they had found in a whole year of digging in the yellow clay.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to tell us that the time has come for us to stop scratching around on the surface of the spiritual life & dig deeper to find the pearl of great price. The Kingdom of God is at hand – not up there or over there or out there. Indeed, it is within us, but to discover it, experience it, rejoice in it we have to dig deep within ourselves. We must stop digging in the yellow clay & delve into the blue clay, as it were. There is no substitute for no-holds-barred soul searching, the kind usually associated with some great trauma in our lives.
In a Bible class, the children were asked to name the first two human beings created by God & their nationality. One little boy responded: “Adam & Eve & they were Russian.” Why do you say that?” he was asked. “Adam & Eve had no clothes to wear & no roof over their heads, & they thought they were living in Paradise” (a reference to communist Russia). Jesus wants us to turn that around. Whether or not we have clothes to wear or a roof over our heads, He wants us to dig in the blue clay & discover that God’s paradise is within us now.
But this means we must be willing to change radically, to reorder our priorities. In my experience, that happens infrequently. The old routines, old attachments, & old values must give way to the new life to which He is calling us. In short, we must repent. Now, as then, we cannot answer the call to discipleship on a superficial level. We must relinquish whatever it is that is preventing us from finding paradise.
We’ve all heard the expression “His (or her) heart is in the right place.” Repentance is a matter of putting our heart in the right place. It makes all the difference between spiritual life or death. It all depends on where our treasure lies. It depends on our willingness to place all our attachments, our relationships, our hopes & dreams within the context of God’s will & purposes. To this end, the Church has devoted an entire season to foster this effort. It is called Lent.
Robert Browning’s poem Karshish is about Lazarus after being brought back to life by Jesus. Other people were anxious about things that no longer seemed important to him, & things that now deeply concerned him didn’t seem to matter at all to those around him. In other words, Lazarus was now seeing life in a whole new perspective. Sometimes it takes such a harrowing experience to wake us up to the truly important things in life.
Fortunately, not all of have to be hit over the head with a tire iron, as it were. Such people are able to respond to our Lord’s call to repentance & experience God’s loving presence within them. Those who do so experience a kind of resurrection. They become wonderfully different, their priorities change, & their former loyalties & attachments take on new meaning. In their relationships with others, they become less concerned with “What’s wrong with you?” & more concerned with “How can I bring out the best in you?”
In the spirit of repentance, we all need to go down to the level of the blue clay within our souls, rejoice in the experience of God’s loving presence, & not be at a loss for words when we hear Jesus’ call to follow Him. AMEN!