A form of meditation to which I was once introduced at a retreat involves trying to picture a passage of scripture, such as a parable, in as vivid detail as possible, and to imagine oneself as one part of the story, and then as another and so on. The idea is to become an observer, nay, more than an observer, a participant in the story, giving free range to your imagination. The method, known as Ignatian Meditation, was developed by Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
In that retreat the following passage was used.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46).
The standard interpretation of this passage is that the Kingdom of Heaven is the pearl of great price, which to gain we should give up everything else.
There are not many characters in the story that one might imagine oneself to be, just the merchant. Or so it would seem until one gives free rein to one’s imagination.
I’ll go straight to an interpretation that surprised me and which has stayed with me for years. Imagine that the pearl of great price is – you. And the merchant is Jesus searching for you and giving all he had – for you.
You are that pearl of great price. Think about it.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 4-January-2016.
As my friend and business partner often observes, “There is nothing you can do that will make God take your picture off his refrigerator.”
Ron- you ended with “think about it”- the story of the great pearl. So, I did.
First I imagined myself as the person selling the pearl. I asked, “Why would I sell this great treasure when I could keep it for myself?” But then maybe that is the essence of giving, or evangelism. If the passing on of this treasure in and of itself does not detract from the great value the first owner derived from it, the selling is justified. The remaining questions are a matter of capitalism and socialism. What if the potential buyer is a poor, but honest, scholar who is prepared to benefit all of mankind with this treasure? what if the potential buyer is a greedy merchant who only wants to buy his way into grace? And finally, if the oyster is sentient, how did it “feel” about giving up its life so mankind could have a small piece of irritating material covered by layers and layers of nacre? Does the oyster experience grace from giving up life and pearl? I conclude with “enough, already.” I did what you asked, and I thought about it. I concluded that you have provided me with a great Daily Cup that made me think. Thank you. -TATE