ORDINARY 17 (A)
When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. – Mt.13: 46
Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan, was murdered in the summer of 1993. Before that happened, Michael said this to columnist Bob Greene:
“My heroes are & were my parents…. It wasn’t that the rest of the world would necessarily think they were heroic. But they were the adults I saw constantly & admired what I saw. If you’re lucky, you grow up in a house where you can learn what kind of person you should be from your parents. And on that count, I was very lucky. It may have been the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.”
To Michael Jordan, good parents meant as much to him as his incomparable basketball skill. Early on, he was given a pearl of great price, a moral treasure – character & honesty – to draw on when he grew up. The moral person of character is the result of drawing from the storeroom of treasured, witnessed experiences & memories buried early & daily in his or her heart by parents & mentors & other significant adults. The greatest gift we can give the next generation are moral treasures in the storeroom of their psyches that they can discover & draw on in later life. The real tragedy in some of today’s kids is there is no treasure in the field, only an empty field.
That is, their moral storeroom is empty. There is no deep, subconscious resource to plumb, because they have been raised in a moral vacuum by poor models, or they have been physically, emotionally, & morally abandoned by their parents, & so are left only with the constructed celebrities of the likes of Paris Hilton & Donald Trump as guides.
We count. Our example, our witness count & have effects we don’t always realize. Years ago some reporters were interviewing the Russian Premier Boris Yeltsin, asking him what gave him the courage to stand firm during the fall of communism in the former USSR. Interestingly, he credited the electrician from Poland, Lech Walesa, who started the downfall of communism there. When Walesa was interviewed & asked what inspired him, he said it was the civil rights movement in the United States led by Martin Luther King (notice: both these men were steeped in their religious faith). When King was interviewed & asked what inspired him, he said it was the courage of one woman, Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back seat of a bus.
Is it too much of a strain to say that the moral courage of a brave little woman in the South brought about the fall of communism? Hidden treasures are like that, & that is the lesson for us. How valuable the little things we do, the people we influence! Wise parents, wise adults, provide this sort of training all the time, getting their children to act with virtue & thereby developing their abilities to do so on a regular basis. For example:
“I know you don’t feel like doing your homework right now. You’d rather watch television or play video games. But I want you to stick to your work another half hour. Then you do what you want.” Again:
“I know you don’t like the sweater your grandmother sent you for Christmas, but she gave it to you out of love. So you will write her a thank-you note nonetheless.” Finally:
“I know you’ve received a last-minute invitation to go on this exciting week-end trip. But when you agreed to join the soccer team, you made a commitment to your teammates. You don’t have to play soccer next year if you don’t want to. But for this year you’ve made a commitment & you must fulfill it. So, no, you cannot skip the game to go on the trip.”
If we don’t say things like that, what’s the message? It’s OK to break your commitments, your word? Later on, when their marriage breaks up, you’ll ask, where’d they learn that?
What are we putting daily into the moral storeroom of the next generation? When they look for treasure, will they find any? The kingdom of God is like the pearls of example & wise counsel buried deep in the hearts of the little ones. AMEN!