The Pearl of Great Price

Jesus told a parable about a merchant who found a pearl of great price. Overjoyed at this discovery, he sells all that he has in order to acquire it. This parable, and others similar to it, are part of a series of teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. Even one small glimpse is worth sacrificing everything we have.

We are living in a turbulent time. In the midst of school suspensions, sporting events cancelled and family members in various stages of quarantine, it can be challenging to know where to turn next. These sacrifices we are making as a society weren’t voted on, and in most cases our opinion wasn’t sought out. And yet, the gift of sacrifice is waiting for us to make good use of it.

In the Christian tradition, the act of sacrifice is an act of life and love. Jesus Christ’s paramount example of selfless sacrifice on the cross is how God saves us from our sins and opens the gates of Heaven. We are called to participate in that same act when we offer our smaller, daily sacrifices with love for the good of others. Before a few weeks ago, these sacrifices might have included letting someone go before us, listening to a friend’s concerns for longer than we had anticipated, making someone else’s favorite meal instead of your own, etc.

Today, our sacrifices have gotten much larger. They now range to staying home from work, creatively stretching a bag of beans into multiple meals, monitoring toilet paper usage, cancelling our own events and celebrations, handling our children’s disappointment when their activities are cancelled and learning how to “do school” from home.

I think no matter what our situation, the biggest sacrifice we are being asked to make is one of time. Time is a tricky thing. There never seems to be enough, and at the same time (hehe, see what I did there?), we struggle when there is an abundance of it. We are each facing a unique situation which presents an undetermined amount of time that must be spent at home. When, in recent memory, have you been actually required to stay home? The last time you were grounded perhaps?

What an incredible gift this could turn out to be! What a pearl of great price to acquire! There are so many thing you could get done! In fact, I would challenge you to make a list, right now, of all the things you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had or wanted to find time for. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Finished? Did you remember to switch out your winter and spring wardrobe? How about paint the back bedroom? Or finally organize the closet in your son or daughter’s room? Don’t forget scrubbing the crayon off the wall by your toddler’s crib from who knows how long ago (just me?).

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just got overwhelmed by all the “things” that need to get done. You’re list, though full of great tasks, is missing a critical element. The people who you will be spending this unstructured time with are more important than any to-do list. The people, be they big or small, young or old, are waiting for you to be present with them. They are waiting for your gift of time.

You have time to talk to your grandma on the phone for as long as you and she like. You have time to write the thank you notes from Christmas or a birthday. You have time to make home-made play dough, and then actually play with your kids with it. You have time to read that book, “Just one more time, please!” You have time to say a whole rosary, maybe even uninterrupted if you wake up early enough. You have time to teach your son or daughter to sew, whittle, crochet, garden, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom properly, take your pick! You have time to bake cookies (and then probably put them in the freezer), to celebrate a friend’s birthday after we all get to congregate more than 6ft from one another.

So step back and take another look at your list. Take a moment and close your eyes. The sacrifice of staying home could bring your family a pearl of great value. How do you hope to strengthen your relationships with the people in your home, family and community during this period at home? Pick one or two things that at the end of all this, you want to look back and say, “Wow, that was awesome. Without this concentrated time we never would have done x, or y, what a gift this time turned out to be.”

It’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that every single moment of this time needs to be spent in togetherness. Be sure to carve out time for yourself, your own growth and mental health. Go for that run, read that book, swing on the swing, make a home altar and spend a period of time each day in silence. Whatever it is, your time together will be all the more fruitful if you are also taking the time to care for your wellbeing.

These sacrifices are challenging indeed. But as we go forward into this unknown territory, the landscape does not need to be as daunting as some might make it out to be. The light shines a bit brighter when we embrace our sacrifices and and discover the pearls God is waiting to shower upon us.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Landmarks

We were driving into Austin, TX so that Ben could run in the marathon (He’s insane, in my humble opinion. But he finished under his goal and we are super proud!). Per our usual arrangement, Ben was driving and I was navigating. I started chuckling to myself as I told him he would need to turn left ahead, and that there would be a Joe’s Crab Shack on the right. Usually, I don’t give him references like that, and he made a funny face. “What?” I said, “Google says so.” Within the directions on my phone it had not just what streets to turn on, but it also gave landmarks for most of them. This was new to us.

Google told us things like “Pass by the Pizza Hut on the left,” and “Turn before the Wendy’s across the street on the right.” I don’t think this is a feature everywhere (I ran a search from our house to base and didn’t get any helpful hints). But Austin is a major city, so I imagine this is the the next step for Google navigation.

I am more of a landmark based direction person. I can find my way around much better if I can connect a memory to the location or the steps in the directions. This was clear on the way back to the car when I found myself saying things like,”Oh we have to turn here because remember, John, you saw the longhorn statue,” and “I think we keep going straight because we need to pass the corner where that huge tree is.”

Landmarks, large and small, trigger memories. They cause us to think of something. The Statue of Liberty may bring forward memories of a visit to Ellis Island or perhaps your sophomore year high school history class learning about the Irish Famine and the immigrants who passed under her torch. A picture of Mt. Everest might make you think of endurance, persistence and the ultimate challenge. Maybe seeing the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge will make you recall a favorite vacation or family who live nearby.

Landmarks

Our lives are filled with landmarks.  We all have favorite spots, restaurants, parks, places that hold fond memories. There are also landmarks that don’t necessarily hold memories, rather they serve as guideposts. They are the landmarks that help us remember how to get where we want to go. On our way to base, Clare, who is 3, can shout out at least 4 different landmarks along the route. There’s that coffee shop you pass on your daily run, which subconsciously lets  you know you only have 1 mile left until you are home. You pass by a pizza place or go over a bridge every time you go to your grandma’s house.

The Church, wise as she is, give us lots and lots of landmarks, both big and small. The big ones – the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, Chartes Cathedral, The Chapel of the Nativity, and so so many more. The point of these immense spaces is to point our gaze heavenward. They are beautiful in their own right, but they are also beautiful because they show us a glimpse of a deeper reality. If you would like an example, check out this short (6 minutes) video excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.

As reflective individuals, we have the opportunity to decorate our homes and environments. We surround ourselves with images, furniture, and necessities. Some of these items we need, like clothes, cooking supplies, food, etc. Others are more decorative – pictures on the wall, stylized couches and tables, calendars, books, clocks, and accessories. We can, and often do, place certain items with great care and in specific rooms. The dining table obviously goes in the dining room or kitchen. A pull-out couch or bed would be out of place in the patio.

Just as the everyday items of our home “belong” certain places, religious items too can have great significance on what goes on in that space. They serve as landmarks within our home, helping to guide our families’ day along paths of holiness. A crucifix in each bedroom is a great place to start. Many families have a small holy water font by the front door. Perhaps an icon of the Holy Trinity, whose image the family reflects, would fit well in your living or dining room. Our kids have an icon of their saint namesake in their bedrooms. Ben’s grandmother has a small photograph of a young refugee girl near her front door because it reminds her to pray for all those who will spend the day/night without a home, especially refugees. I have an icon of Mary and a few prayer cards scattered throughout the kitchen because they remind me to approach the day as Mary did, with a smile and a Yes to God’s will.

What sorts of landmarks do you have in your home that help you and your family keep on your path to holiness? Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com