While I am on vacation, I offer for your consideration a Reflection from the Rev. William C. Graham of The Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Scholar in Residence 2013-2014, Collegeville, Minnesota. —Msgr. Richard
Seeking a compassionate heart…
You have, of course, heard the one about the three men stranded on a desert island: there they are, bereft, tattered and hungry, when a bottle washes up on the shore. They uncork the bottle, and a genie appears and offers three wishes. The first wishes to be taken to Paris—a snap of the genie’s fingers and the man is standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. The second man wishes that he were in Hollywood—a snap of the genie’s fingers and the man is at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. The third man, now alone on the island, looks around and says, “I wish my friends were back.”
Too bad that those three had not read the passage where the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream. “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” God declares. And Solomon answered, “Give your servant…an understanding heart…” Pleased at such a request, God gave Solomon a heart filled with more wisdom and understanding than anyone else in history.
We too must ask that the Lord’s compassion would come to us so that we may live with the law as our delight. There is the key to our life in God: seeking to have the compassionate heart of Jesus. Paul calls us, as Jesus first calls us, to be conformed to the image of Christ. In this call, we find our true spirituality, the very heart of our faith: the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.
Saint Athanasius wrote that Jesus was made man so that we might be made God. We pray for that transformation at the preparation of the gifts: “[M]ay we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
When we recognize that this is the kind of transformation for which we pray, then we become that wise one who sells all to buy the field where the treasure is buried. But remember that if the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, then the Church too must be like that net. I once threw a line into the sea while aboard a deep-sea fishing boat. I caught something and struggled for the longest time while imagining my pride when a huge marlin would be pulled from the sea. Instead, my reward was a well-worn tire.
The Church’s net yields more than castaway tires. We who come up out of the baptismal waters are an assorted lot of sinners, saints, and folk in-between. Some do not vote the way I would wish they might. Some resist my effort to convert them to my own approach to life. And yet we pray that through the powerful working of God’s grace, the mysteries we celebrate may sanctify our way of life.
—Rev. William C. Graham