The Kingdom and the Anarchists
Barbara Krensavage was not in the habit of eating clams. Yet, one snowy day, she had an urge to try out an old recipe. She drove to the store and bought four dozen quahogs — a common clam along the New England shores. Her husband was shucking the clams when he came across one that looked diseased. Taking a closer look, he opened the clam, and, to his astonishment, discovered a rare, purple pearl. One in two million quahog clams is likely to have a genuine pearl inside. This one was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Christ tells us a parable about a merchant who discovered another rare pearl.
“The kingdom of heaven,” He says, “is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
This is a story to give us zeal. What is the Christian life about? We get discouraged along the way, or burnt out by the Church, because we forget. We forget the point. We lose the pearl. We settle for fakes, rather than Christ.
What is the Kingdom of God? On a jog, some months back, a friend used the phrase: “being kingdom minded.” I have been thinking about this ever since. That really is Orthodoxy, in a nutshell. Everything in our Church is about tearing down the walls of secularism and letting in the Kingdom. We start out each year by inviting the priest to bless our homes — because we want every corner and closet of our world to be charged with the Kingdom. We put up icons along our walls, to help open our eyes to the vibrant presence of the Kingdom. We process through the streets with the Blessed Eucharist, to remind the world that it is invaded by the Kingdom.
Yet, in all this, we can still lose the pearl. We can live the “form” of the Kingdom, but forget the heart of it. What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom is Jesus Christ. St. Patrick forever summed this up in his ancient hymn:
“Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me.”
The Benedictine monk, Fr. John Main, explains the point behind all our rituals and all our Christian efforts:
"The all-important aim in Christian meditation is to allow God's mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality in our lives; to let it become that reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are."
We are called to a deeper reality, as Christians, to living a life merged into Jesus Christ. He is the pearl of great price and nothing in the world stands up to him.
I saw a news episode on Saturday morning, about the BLM protestors in Chicago. Hundreds gathered around the mayor’s house to demand defunding the police. Defund the police — what are they thinking? They are not proposing anything, just tearing down. They are not insisting that police get better training or that the system becomes more ethical. They just want to destroy the system: pure, unadulterated anarchy.
Psalm two gives us a glimpse into the heart of man.
“Why do the heathen so furiously rage together and why do the people image a vain thing? The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed, [saying] let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their cords from us” (v. 1-3).
The noise in the world does not have any answers. It merely wants to break and smash. As the world hung Christ on a cross, so it seeks today to destroy anything reminiscent of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, raging together, imagining vanity, counseling against God.
How can we respond to this violence? The psalm moves forward:
“He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn” (v. 4).
With all the chaos and destruction on earth, how does God respond? He laughs. The Hebrew, yiś·ḥaq, depicts God sitting up in heaven chuckling to himself. All we see is the chaos and din on earth, but God sees the bigger picture. The world chokes us with worry and fear, as though heaven itself were falling down. Yet, God is unmoved, chuckling. He has already triumphed. Christ has redeemed the world and all his own. We are merely waiting it out.
Now, the psalm turns to you and me.
“The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed…Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Sion. I will rehearse the decree; the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Desire of me” (v. 7-8).
“I have set my King upon my holy hill of Sion.” I have made Christ the King of my heart. The world can go on screaming and fighting. We carry the Kingdom in our souls. The world and all its anarchy will go to dust. The Kingdom is eternal.
Most of life is like all those millions of ordinary quahog clams. A pleasant taste, a passing pleasure, and it is gone. The short-lived fads, the newest inventions, the economic instability and all the riots in the streets — all the history on earth, in fact — it comes and goes. Christ is the one true pearl of great price.
“On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
May God inspire us too to sell everything for this one pearl, a life saturated in the life-giving presence of Jesus Christ.