The title for my homily for this 12th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, "How Many Pearls Do You Have?"
In today’s gospel, Mathew mentions pearls - and not
throwing them to the pigs. In a few chapters later - Matthew 13:46 - he’ll
talk about a pearl merchant - looking and searching for the pearl of great
price. Those are only 2 places in the gospels that we find mention of pearls.
The Book of Revelation mentions pearls once - Revelation 21:21 - where we hear
of the pearly gates. We’ll have to die to find out if they are pearly or golden. That’s it for the New Testament with regards pearls.
The title of my homily is, “How Many Pearls Do You
Not being a woman - not being married - I don’t
know a thing about pearls - other than I don’t see them worn by women in
t-shirts and jeans. I could be wrong about that - you tell me. And I understand
there are real pearls and fake pearls - and I don’t know if women and jewelers
can tell the difference. In this homily I’m talking about the expensive ones -
the real ones.
TWO QUESTIONS FOR THIS HOMILY
My two question for this homily would be: 1) What would be your pearls? 2) How many do you
have? Perhaps better: Name them. List them. Figure them out.
For example in the Sermon on the Mount we have a
whole list of Jesus’ Pearls of Wisdom. Some of them I assume you already own. You wear them. You use them. Without knowing it, you flaunt them because you put them into
For example, in today’s gospel we heard Jesus’
famous rendition of the Golden Rule: "Do to others whatever you would have
them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. Some people own that text. Some people try to live
that. I know when I visit my sister Mary, there is always veal Parmesan. I’ve heard her from time to time name the favorite meal of each her own family
- including sons-in-law. She likes weird stuff - veggie diet stuff. Ugh! In confession, if a father says he yelled at
his kids or was neglecting them, I’ll sometimes say, “For a penance and for a joy, choose one of your kids and
do something for that kid that he or she loves to do with you so that you will make their day.”
So a scripture text could be one of your pearls -
or a saying on your kitchen wall. By pearl of wisdom, I mean something you look
to and put into practice. It’s you! You own it.
Or it could be a spouse or a grandchild or a memory
of your mom - a gift you picked up from her - that without knowing - she gave
to you - and you picked it up. You live by it. As a result, it has made this world
a better place because of your mom - and/or whom she picked it up from, etc.
It could be the Mass. You’re here. Better it could be Christ - at this Sacred
Meal called, “The Mass.” It could be Christ who is with you then while you're driving or while you're praying in the Eucharistic Chapel. It could be Christ whom you're with in visiting the sick or volunteering at the Light
House or during St. Vincent de Paul work or in your own little service of others
systems. I don’t know how many times I’ve experienced Jesus in nursing homes
or while sitting with someone in trouble. I keep hearing Paul’s words of
wisdom: "You are the body of Christ - member for member" - or Jesus’ words in
Matthew 25: "I was sick or in prison and you visited me...."
The title of my homily is, “How Many Pearls Do You Have?”
Have you ever said to a woman wearing pearls, "Pearls are you!” 
Have you ever said to yourself, “This is me! I have
to do this. I have to help this person or be there for this person.”
Or it could be your garden or playing cards or a
cocktail or a lunch or a call on the phone with a friend or a brother or
In other words, what makes you, you - even when you’re in a t-shirt and jeans? These are your narrow gates that you have
discovered, entered, and they have lead you to life - a much more expensive and
 Oooops! What about guys with pearl handled pistols?
The title of my homily for this 12 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “I Know Why You Did That!”
I once heard Father Pat Lynch - when he was stationed here at
St. Mary’s Parish - give a homily - and he took his hand - and walked two
fingers across the front edge of the pulpit - paused and then said with his
great smile, “Nobody ever saw a motive walk down the street!”
I don’t remember what his homily was about - but I have
never forgotten that simple message - and I remember it at times - not always -
when I find myself judging another person’s motive.
And I usually remember that simple example and message whenever I read today’s
gospel. And I probably use that example whenever I have to say a few words
about today’s gospel.
Good. It’s a good example. It reminds us to do what Jesus
says here in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus tells us to: STOP JUDGING!
Jesus tells us that we nit pick on others - spotting the
splinters in our sister or our brother’s eye - but we don’t spot the wooden
beams in our own eye.
It’s like spotting a tiny piece of white flaky dandruff on
the shoulder of a blue suit or dress and we don’t see the gossip stains splashed
all over our own soul.
In other words, “Let him or her without splinters cast the
first judgment and comment.”
IT’S A BUMMER!
Jesus also tells us in today’s gospel to change our measuring stick - our ruler -
because it can both rule and ruin a meal or a relationship or life for us.
Let me explain one of my human learnings or life lessons.
know someone who has a great musical ear and great musical talents. When he
hears someone sing or play the piano - he’s hearing that music differently than
I hear it. I don’t have an ear - in fact, I was in the Tin Ear Club all through
my years in the seminary. I hear music with unmarked rulers or measuring
sticks or scores. I’m happy if someone can simply stand up there and sing or play the
guitar or the piano. Amazing! He hears it with his measuring sticks - and if
it’s off pitch a half note or a quarter note - if there is such a thing - or
off tune or flat, it irritates him. I laugh, because that’s what you get when
you get a great musical ear or any talent.
I once took a workshop when I lived in Wisconsin on Religious Art by a Sister
Monica - who was an artist. She showed us slides of good religious art and
horrible religious art. As a result I look at religious art differently and
appreciate art better - but it ruined some holy cards and magazine and book
covers with religious art for me. I have to be careful that I don’t poo poo
someone’s art work - or become snooty.
So we have our measuring rulers on what makes a great work of art or song - as well as a hamburger, veal parmesan, movie, marriage, spouse, child, neighbor, priest, sermon,
conversation, morning, afternoon, evening, fire works, wine, whiskey, beer,
sunset, and sometimes we don’t enjoy any of the above because we’re comparing
moments and people with other moments and people and situations. If we have a high bar, we might not enjoy the
cocktail. Comparisons can crush and crunch and quench the spirit.
In the meanwhile, take long walks and listen to music. But don't walk or listen with your rulers or your motives or your wooden beams. Listen or walk with open, clean, clear eyes - and enjoy the
delights God is presenting us with today. Amen.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist.
I just happened to read the other day an article in old America magazine entitled “Soul Searching”. It was by Elizabeth Lev - who teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University’s Italian campus in Rome - as well the University of St. Thomas’s Catholic studies program - also in Rome. 
Since it’s the feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist that article triggered this question: there is a lot of art - a lot of paintings - depicting John the Baptist - what do they point out?
Elizabeth Lev in her article kept saying that great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Caravaggio put a lot more faith in their paintings than what some modern art authorities give them due. She says theories concocted by some authors who have no training in the history of art have persuaded millions that these works of art are proclaiming secular or odd messages. I’m assuming she’s going after folks like Dan Brown of the Da Vinci Code fame.
She then proceeds to present how the history of art has changed in the last few centuries. She quotes a Giorgio Vasari - who published in 1550 a book, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. She points out that Vasari points out how faith played a big part in the works of artists like Michelangelo and others. Then she points out that in the 18th century, art historians began to impute motives on earlier Christian artists that are simply not true. As a result the spiritual and the sacred are negated.
I hope I laid that out relatively clear.
WHY COME TO MASS?
Now, the title of my homily is, “Pointing to God!”
I would hope that one result of coming to Mass is that we leave with a great sense during the week of all kinds of things that point us to God. Let me repeat that sentence: I would hope that one result of coming to Mass is that we leave with a great sense during the week of seeing all kinds of things that point us to God. Then we have inner comments, prayers, thoughts and conversations, questions and wonderments with God.
Then I would add the opposite: if we didn’t come to Mass, we might miss a lot of God referrals and the spiritual during the week.
PAINTINGS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
I pointed the mouse cursor or arrow on my computer to Google and then I typed in “Paintings of John the Baptist.”
I noticed that various paintings of St. John the Baptist have him pointing his finger towards Christ.
Sure enough that’s one of the themes in the scriptures about John the Baptist. There are others - but for this homily I would like to point out that many things - many experiences - many moments - point us to God. They are doing what John the Baptist did: point. We know the big John the Baptist quote: "He must increase; I must increase" [John 3:30].
Many moments point us to Christ - his person and his teachings.
According to Vasari as well as Elizabeth Lev in her article inAmerica magazine, that’s what the great religious painters are doing.
I would next add the following: has this ever happened to you? You go to an art museum - for example the National Gallery in WashingtonD.C. You spend 3 hours looking at paintings. You experience art. Then you walk outside and everything for about 20 minutes or so - appears as a work of art. This has happened to me many times. Trees, cars, people, walls, sky, flowers, light on leaves, all look like works of art.
If you don’t get that, picture med students studying about germs and viruses - and after class - they are seeing germs everywhere.
There are two kinds of people: those who point out the bugs and those who point out the beauty around us.
There are two kinds of teachers - or parents - or preachers: those who point out the mistakes and those who point out what you got right.
REDEMPTORISTS IN COLUMBIA
Next. I remember hearing one of our priests talking about what some Redemptorists in Columbia, South America, do in their parish missions. They take a group of folks through a town and start pointing out what is right in front of them. They would point to a light. Then they would say Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Jesus told us to bring light to others." They would point to a door. Jesus said, “I am the door.” They would point to an alley. Jesus said, “I am the way!” They would come to a fork in the street. Jesus said, “There are two ways - the narrow way that leads to life and the broad way that leads to destruction. And many go by the broad, wide, way.” They would come into the market. The preacher would point to a scale and say, “Jesus went into the market and talked about how we measure people - and how God measures people - with great generosity." They would point out a child and would say, “Jesus said unless you be like little children - you’ll never be in the kingdom of God.” They would point to a crowd and say, "Jesus was preaching in town to a crowd like this and a woman came up and just touched the edge of his garment - hoping to be healed. Then Jesus said, 'Who touched me? Who bumped into me?'” Then they might add, “Where do you need to be healed? Touch Jesus today!”
ALMOST FINISHED: MAJOR QUESTION
I am almost finished. The title of my homily is, “Pointing to God.” I'm using the word "point" over and over again in this sermon or homily - with the hope you'll over and over again realize that lots of life's experiences will point you to God and the Son of God: Christ!
Here’s my major question. Looking at life, what are the things, experiences, and moments that point you to God?
Talk to each other - talk to people - ask them that question: Looking at life, what are the things, experiences, and moments that point you to God?
It’s my experience that people deepen their spirituality - their outlook - their attitudes - their values - their prayer life - in various ways.
I’ll conclude with 10. I ask you to talk to each other - and come up with your 10. So here are 10 things that can point us to God.
1) Come to Church - Mass - be at peace here - pray - reflect on the homily - give the sign of peace with those around you - receive communion - go in peace. Or come back during the week to remain in communion with Christ in the Eucharistic chapel or here in church - like in the quiet of the afternoon.
2) Listen to classical music. Put your cell phone in a paper bag in the back of the bottom drawer of your bedroom dresser - close the bedroom door and go listen to the music in some other room.
3) Take a good walk - have God point out his works of art to you. For example in QuietWaterPark. I’ve had various people tell me part of their vacation at the ocean is to walk the beach in the evening or early morning or whenever.
4) Go to an art museum - watch the video in the kiosks or alcoves of a featured artist - and then go look at and study her or his paintings. Ask what was the artist thinking? What would you entitle the painting? What does it point out? Or get the head set and see what someone is pointing out to you.
5) Study people at a ballgame, major, minor or little league. See it as a choreographed dance. Watch the players and their preparation. Watch the people in the stands: up and down, looking around, doing the wave, eating, relaxing, enjoying a moment in the time of their life.
6) Watch a 90 year old couple walking up Main Street holding hands and it’s a first marriage - or whether husbands hold the door open for their wives coming in or out of a restaurant or a car and study the spouse’s face and read their lips if they respond with a “Thank you!”
7) Read a good short story or novel. What does it point out about life or God or the spiritual?
8) Write your autobiography. When questions come up - talk to siblings or others - for their take on something that happened.
9) Gather your parents’ stories - if they are alive - tape them - interview them. Type it up. Clarify what they are saying. Read it back to them and get refinements and corrections. Watch their faces and eyes when you do this.
10) When you eat - eat slowly - meditate on the journey of food from the farmer to the market place - to your fork or spoon or hand. When eating with kids, point to an apple - and point out the story of an apple tree, types of apples, etc. Taste the apple or apple pie. Taste the watermelon or the roasted asparagus or the rum raison ice cream. Taste it. If you get the Big Gulp, don’t gulp it down. If you get fast food, eat it as slow food.
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Painting on top: John the Baptist by Bartolomeo Veneto, 16th Century.  Elizabeth Lev, "Soul Searching", America, March 7, 2011, pp. 21-24.