Homily: We Are God’s Pearls

November 20, 2022 – Solemnity of Christ the King

Readings of the day: 2 Samuel 5:1-3 / Colossians 1:12-20 / Luke 22:35-43

I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:

I read something recently that I found interesting and wanted to share it with you. It explained how pearls are formed. Maybe you already know this; I did not.

What I came across was a written reflection. It explained how pearls are formed, and then compared that process to our human experience. The following comes from that reflection: 

Did you know that an oyster that has not been wounded in any way does not produce pearls? A pearl is a healed wound.

Pearls are a product of pain, the result of a foreign substance entering the oyster – a substance such as a grain of sand.

Lining the inside of an oyster shell is a shiny substance called nacre – also known as mother of pearl. When a foreign substance enters, it acts as an irritant, similar to the oyster getting a splinter. The oyster’s natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The nacre cells go to work and cover the foreign substance with layer upon layer of protection. As a result, a beautiful pearl is formed!

If there is no pain or wounding – no splinter – there are no pearls.

The reflection went on to connect this to our own journey: From our sinfulness – our brokenness – something beautiful can emerge. It is quite possible that our greatest ministry to others will come out of our greatest pain. Like the wounds of Christ, something beautiful will come from the wounds we endure.

We are the wounded oyster. When sin enters our hearts, Jesus seeks to protect us, wrapping us in layer upon layer of his mercy and love, and forming something beautiful out of our brokenness. There is conversion; he transforms us. This beauty is then reflected out to the world – his glory being revealed in us and through us.

We see this transformation take place in today’s gospel. The gospel from Luke details events of the crucifixion. On either side of Jesus hung men described as “criminals.”

One of those criminals was Dismas, often referred to as “the good thief.” The soldiers were taunting and mocking Jesus. The criminal hanging to the left of Jesus joined in with the soldiers, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”

Dismas, however, rebuked the other criminal and said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

To which Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

With these words, Dismas was transformed from sinner to saint through the mercy and love of Jesus.

The following is information about Saint Dismas from the University of Notre Dame Faith website:

The Christian community took seriously Jesus’ words that this good thief was saved, and honors him as a saint. Dismas’ response to Jesus is a good articulation of steps in conversion away from sin: he came to an honest awareness of his sin and turned away from it, seeking Jesus as the source of eternal life.

Whenever I read through the scripture passages for a given weekend, I ask myself, “Why were these readings chosen for this particular Sunday or feast day? How do the readings fit in with this season of the liturgical year?”

On this Feast of Christ the King, we get an inside look into the kingship of Jesus. Today’s readings project a different image of kingship than normally comes to mind. The readings don’t point us to an oppressive power-wielding ruler or a self-absorbed royal sitting on a lavish throne or even a mighty warrior leading his countryman into a righteous battle.

Rather, the King presented to us is one of great humility, one willing to sacrifice himself for his subjects. He did not have a crown of gold but a crown of thorns; his throne was a cross upon which he was nailed.

Christ the King is Christ the Merciful King. In the midst of his own human suffering, Christ the Merciful King offered love and forgiveness to the sinner that hung beside him, leading Dismas to conversion and giving him access to the heavenly kingdom.

Pearls emerge from wounded oysters. Saints emerge from their own brokenness. With the exception of Mary, every member of the communion of saints was born a sinner.

In the second reading, Paul offered hope to the Colossians, reminding them that the sacrificial death of Jesus delivered them “from the power of darkness” and transferred them “to the kingdom.”

Jesus made access to heaven possible for all of us. It is important to note the use of the word possible. Heaven was made possible, but it is not a given; it is not guaranteed. To actually enter the kingdom, we must put in the work.

Dismas, for instance, made the first move. He acknowledged his sinfulness, saying to the other criminal, “…we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes.”  

He confessed his brokenness, then reached out to Jesus and asked that he be allowed fellowship with him in paradise.

Dismas serves as a great example for us going into the Advent season. It is a time of preparation – preparing to welcome Jesus into our world, into our life. We prepare by acknowledging our brokenness and seeking conversion.

You may have noticed that many of the readings in these weeks leading up to Advent have centered on being vigilant, being prepared. A heart that has experienced mercy and conversion has prepared itself not only for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but also for entry into the kingdom.

That is why First Reconciliation takes places this time of year – the St. Pius X second graders made their first confessions this past week. It is why penance services are held during the Advent season. Like Dismas, we are encouraged to take an active role in our own conversion by acknowledging our brokenness and asking for the mercy of Jesus and fellowship with him.

Unlike Dismas, we are certain of God’s forgiveness. Dismas hoped Jesus was the Christ and could grant him access to the Kingdom. We know it. We also know no one is denied God’s mercy.

God’s love for us is limitless. When we acknowledge our brokenness and take that first step toward Jesus, he will wrap us in layer after layer of mercy and love.

There are no pearls where there have been no wounds. We are God’s pearls, bringing beauty into the world by serving as witnesses of our transformation.

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