Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do just about anything to get it?
For example, think about some of the remarkable things that athletes put themselves through to make the team or to win a championship. I remember when I was pursuing a career in basketball I would do some really crazy things – things like getting up early in the morning to go jogging! And that was just so I could run around bouncing a ball!
Or perhaps think about when you first fell in love – the first time someone stole your heart. It’s a breathtaking experience, which seems to relativise everything you valued up to that point. You probably felt like you would go to the ends of the earth to be with this person.
Again, the parents here can certainly relate if you think about the birth of your first child – when you first held your baby, and you perhaps weren’t entirely sure how this little person had ended up in your arms, but you just knew that you would do anything for him or for her.
These are some of our human loves, in pursuit of which we do some remarkably difficult things. Now multiply all this infinitely as we speak about the divine love.
Somewhere deep within each one of us is an immense longing for something eternal, like a memory we can’t shake, or an itch we can’t scratch. We distract ourselves from it with mindless entertainment or the cares of life, because to think about it too much can drive us mad. However, every now and then, we get a brief glimpse of the divine, which stirs this deep hunger within us, and it becomes clear that the things of this passing world are simply unable to satisfy our deepest longings.
Those who’ve been granted a small taste of it, realise that nothing else is worth giving their life for. And so they spend their life searching… longing… and their desire grows stronger.
This is the context for Jesus’ image in today’s Gospel passage. What would be the reaction of someone who spent their whole life searching… hoping… and then, after many years of strenuous effort, off in the distance they get a glimpse of what their deepest soul has always yearned for, shining like a fine pearl, or a treasure hidden in a field. Would they not, as Jesus says, be willing to give up everything for it?
This longing that the world cannot satisfy is certainly a central theme behind my own call to the priesthood, and it helps to explain why six years ago I prostrated myself on the Cathedral floor and gave my whole life over to the service of the Lord and his people.
However, this thing I am talking about is not just something for priests and nuns, but it holds true for all Christians, and indeed all people. We each have an intense hunger for God implanted deep within us, and we are each called to respond to it in different ways.
We have a number of young friends with us this morning who are in the final stages of preparing the receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
Dear friends, I remember when I was your age and about to have my First Holy Communion, I didn’t fully get what it was all about. I mean, eating Jesus’ body – that sounds a bit weird! And it still looks like bread – so what’s the big deal?
Well, here’s the thing – what if what the Church believes about the Eucharist is really true? What if the Holy Spirit really is about to descend upon this simple bread and wine, and transform it into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ? What if that’s actually about to happen?
And if we can’t see it—if all we can see is a little piece of bread and some wine—just maybe, this is partly on us. Maybe we need to train our eyes to be able to see – to be able to recognise the Lord in his most simple disguise. Because if it’s true – if Jesus Christ—Almighty God himself—really is present among us in a special way in the Eucharist, that’s a really big deal.
Think about how you would act if your favourite athlete, or a famous pop star were about to come in here this morning. You would be wide awake, alert, and ready to make a good impression. That’s for someone who can kick a football or who looks good in a music video!
I’m talking about the Son of God himself—the one through whom all things in Heaven and earth were made. Think about that. If you knew that you were about to encounter God—in the flesh—how would you prepare yourself?
Young friends, the Eucharist is like the treasure in a field that Jesus talked about in the Gospel. It’s a pearl of great price, and it’s worth more than all the toys and video games and fancy gadgets in the world. Don’t just take my word for it – consider the countless Catholics over the centuries who’ve literally given everything—including their very lives—to be able to unite themselves with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
So as you prepare to receive Holy Communion for the first time, ask Jesus to come into your soul in a special way, ask him to help you welcome him into your very body, so that you may be a worthy dwelling place for God. And ask him to help you develop a deep love for him in the Holy Eucharist, and to never take it for granted.
Our encounters with God in this life are only partial of course. As Saint Paul once said, we see only a dim reflection as though through a dark mirror. But persevere. And when time has run its course, and we finally meet our maker face to face, we will say at last, not “Who are you?” but, to quote C.S. Lewis, “So, it was you all the time.”