After telling several parables to his disciples, Jesus asks, “Do you understand all these things?” “Yes,” they replied, in their all-too-quick fashion. In truth, has anyone really understood well and completely the meaning of Christ’s parables of the kingdom? One understands by living them well. Whom do we know who has lived the gospel well, but Christ Jesus, and his blessed Mother—and various saints, all to some imperfect yet beautiful degree. As Origen wrote (184-253 AD): “Jesus is himself the Kingdom.” Do you know of a better Kingdom of God than the fullness of God’s presence in Jesus Christ, and hence to a degree, in us, the body of Christ?
“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.” Jesus shows us what is of ultimate value or worth in human life: discovering God in Him, loving Him, following Him, obeying Him, rejoicing in Him. “My happiness lies in God alone,” sings the Psalmist, who has found in God alone his pearl of infinite value. Whoever finds God, finds the Pearl of great price. Whoever does not find God, however rich or powerful, comes up empty.
But here is the uniqueness of finding God: the One who is found is found to be ever with, in, and beyond the one finding. The God who is found is utterly inexhaustible, a spring of pure water ever flowing up out of the depths of the unseen earth. “The one who seeks, finds.” And the person who truly finds finds that he must keep seeking, as St. Anselm teaches. And he must keep loving following, obeying, or what he has found will be lost again. It is not that this Pearl of great price is slippery, like an eel; rather, we are inconstant, unsteady in our love affair with the all-loving One. And so we must seek to fall in love again and again—just as two married folks must keep striving to love each other ever afresh, here and now, and not say with Pushkin: “I loved you once, I love you still—perhaps.” That is not love, nor is it the way of life for one who keeps falling in love with the God who “loved His own in the world, and loved them to the End” (John 13).
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new; late have I loved You. Behold you were with me, but I was not with you.You were within, but I was without, spending myself on these things that ultimately do not satisfy, and would not be at all if You did not will them to be.” The true lover of God, like St. Augustine in his Confessionsparaphrased here, knows that he has “only just begun,” and in truth does not love as he knows and wants to love. And yet, even to taste, even to begin to live God in Christ, the Pearl of infinite value, one begins to leave the world of passing things and enter into communion with that which simply is.
“He who begins to love begins to leave. Many there are who are leaving Babylon, and yet they do not know it. And yet they are leaving by the affections of their heart” (Augustine on the Psalms). “Ubi caritas et amor, Dei ibi est.” “Where charity and love are, there is God.” One who loves has indeed found the Pearl of great price, “the many-splendored thing.”