Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Pearl

“I feel like a thief and a murderer who has been put in jail and condemned for stealing and murdering all my life, murdering God’s grace in myself and in others, murdering Him in His image. I have broken out of the jail in which I lay justly condemned and have rushed even into the place of the King Whose Son I murdered, and I implore the mercy of the Queen who sits here enthroned . . .”[1]

Life. We live it. Its shape is generously, if not altogether, determined by what we see, think, and do. Our own contingent being is influenced and conditioned first by inherited significant others, then by those significant others whom we chose to emulate, and later by the self-perpetuating nature of our collective personal choices and determinations.

We do, indeed, arrive at a personal crisis, more likely a series of personal crises, when we realize how wrong we’ve been, how wrong trusted others have been. Merton’s honesty about himself appeals strongly to me. I can relate to him. He was, in his early life, as much of a scoundrel as me. His choices, my choices, as young men pilfered and profaned our being. We murdered God’s grace in ourselves and others.

It takes more than strength and cunning to break out of the fortress of a false self. It takes the divine action of grace that comes through earthquakes and visiting angels to release us from the prisons that we, and others, build around us before we can walk in the light and fresh air of freedom where truth reigns supreme.[2]

It is truth, alone, that possesses the potential to set us free, into a freedom that possesses, at one and the same time, the potential to irritate and aggravate some while encouraging and inviting others.[3] We cannot walk in the light of truth without paying what may appear to us to be a hefty price for the privilege. But we gladly pay the price knowing that not paying the price will only incur a deeper interior misery that we would rather not live with.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”[4]

[1] Thomas Merton, The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton, entry on April 7, 1941, his first impression of Gethsemani.
[2] Acts 5:17-19 and 16:25-26
[3] John 8:32
[4] Matthew 13:46