May 22, 2022: Sixth Sunday of Easter - Pastor’s Corner
Pearls are the only gems created by a living creature. No two pearls are identical. Like DNA, they are unique. Each particular species of oyster, mussel, or clam creates a gem with a one-of-a-kind beauty and charm. The production of this elegance is not the natural occurrence of the oyster in its ordinary cycle of life. Rather, pearls are fashioned only in the context of suffering. A pearl forms when an irritant works its way into the mollusk. As a defense mechanism, it secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating is deposited on the irritant until finally a lustrous pearl is formed. Pearls are the product of painful patience and perseverance.
In our second reading for this week, we are given a vision of the New Jerusalem. Described in vivid and lustrous detail, John glimpses the reality of future glory with a portrayal of the Heavenly City bejeweled with radiant adornments. Famously, the gates of the New Jerusalem are made of pearl: “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl” (Revelation 21:21). The material of heaven’s gates represents the manner in which we enter into the New City. The fact that these gleaming gates are fashioned from pearl suggests that the road to glory is trod only by those willing to endure the way of suffering and sacrifice. The painful means of patience and perseverance which produces pearls is the same path we must follow if we aspire to live within its brilliant walls. For all its beauty, the architecture of the Heavenly City presents a daunting challenge.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks a word of promise and comfort. Though He acknowledges the difficulties His followers will face in the days of His passion, He assures them that He will send His Spirit to live within them. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23). The presence of Christ’s Spirit does not quench the fear of failure or rejection but offers the comfort of accompaniment. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:25). As the current events of political and social strife make clear: life is full of suffering. Yet, Jesus promises His Spirit to be with us.
Recently, as I was praying in the Church, I was approached by someone who was in obvious distress. In an emotional outpouring, they said that were certain that God was angry with them. When I asked them why they thought God was upset, they shared a myriad of sufferings and challenges that had befallen them. This experience of feeling abandoned in the midst of suffering is something to which we all relate. Even Jesus himself echoes the words of the dejected Psalmist from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is human to suffer. But Jesus’ purpose in taking on our human nature is not to eliminate suffering. Rather, like the living process of the oyster, His mission is to send His Spirit to transform our suffering into a pearl of great price. We remember that the Resurrected Body of Jesus still bears the marks of His Passion. Even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father with the marks of nail and spear. But they are no longer the source of suffering but shine forth as gems of divine life formed by sacrificial love. As we prepare for the celebration of the Spirit’s outpouring at Pentecost, we journey the weary road of travail knowing that we are being transformed into the treasure God has made us to be!
~ Fr. Michael