Random Ruminations #4

Treasures and Pearls... Go See 'Sound of Freedom'... Transfiguration Is No Isolated Event

Treasures and Pearls

Last Sunday’s Gospel wrapped up three weeks of Matthew 13, the chapter replete with various parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s only natural, therefore, that most preaching focused on the Kingdom as the buried treasure or the pearl of great price. So when my pastor, Fr. Paul Scalia, took a different tack, it was worth listening.

He argued that we are that buried treasure, that pearl of great price. It is Jesus who goes to buy the field — the world — with His Blood, Jesus the pearl merchant who gives everything He has for that pearl of great price. That pearl is you.

Perhaps it’s hidden, perhaps it’s buried in a lot of dirt, perhaps it’s shut tight in an oyster shell, but Jesus wants us. We “have been purchased, and at a price” (I Cor 6:20).

In focusing on the human person, Pope St. John Paul II did not lose sight of God. Rather, he read the “signs of the times,” and those signs point to a profound degradation of the dignity of the human person, in whom the image and likeness of God is increasingly buried. A world that could create Auschwitz and abortuaries, build grubby gulags and antiseptic “medical assistance in death” centers, one that could sell children for sex, is a world that has lost its awareness of the dignity of the human person.

Fr. Leo Trese was a mid-20th century Detroit priest whose writings enjoyed a certain popular following. There was one insight he emphasized that struck me when I read it, now almost 45 years ago: “if you were just the only person in the whole world who needed salvation, Jesus would have died for you.”

Let that teach us something about where the pearl of great price might be found.


Go See Sound of Freedom!

I rarely go to the movies, largely because there is so little worth seeing, much less paying for — especially what comes out of Hollywood. Sound of Freedom is, however, definitely worth your time, effort, and money (including its unique program to make tickets available for others).

The film is about a Honduran brother and sister, he just seven, his sister slightly older. A woman invites the little girl for a singing audition and her poor father thinks perhaps it’s a chance for his kids to escape the poverty of the country. Instead, the children are trafficked into the international pedophilia circuit: the boy States-bound, the girl Colombia-bound.

Tim Ballard is a special agent working for the Department of Homeland Security on the child trafficking portfolio. He leverages the arrest of one pedophile to uncover the cross U.S.-Mexican border trafficking, where he saves the little boy. The lad’s story and the encounter with the boy’s father (“You are a father. How can you go to sleep when one of your children’s beds is empty?”) takes Ballard to Colombia, where he manages to set up an elaborate sting that brings down a Cartegena sex trafficking ring. (St. Peter Claver carried out his ministry to chattel slaves through that city). Ballard eventually also brings the little girl home through another adventure (no spoiler alert). The story is based on real events.

The young and the woke do a lot of complaining about “slavery,” notwithstanding its abolition in the United States in 1865. The makers of Sound of Freedom worked to highlight a very real, very modern, and very lucrative contemporary slavery, one worth $150 billion annually in the sale of flesh, mostly underage but also female. Jim Caviezel, who portrays Ballard, notes in a post-film short attached to the movie that the film was finished in 2018 but left in the film can (Disney apparently sat on it), seeing the light of the silver screen only when its makers bought back its distribution rights and Angel Studios took up the cause. Clearly, there were people who don’t want this film seen.

Which is why you should see it. Because addressing the real sex slavery that exists today is a pressing matter.

(The producers have launched a “Pay it Forward” initiative to enable viewers who want to help people who might lack the resources to see the film. See here).


Smoke in Your Eyes

The Platters hit the top of the charts in 1959 with their version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” a song composed long before any Canadian forest caught fire. Their hit could have been background music for New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof’s lamentation [here] on the outlawing of racially-based college admissions.

Kristoff mourns because the Supreme Court’s ruling may not accelerate some applicants into the culture-forming stratosphere of Harvard Yard. Then, admitting not everybody can get into the Ivies or Seven Sisters, he acknowledges the yeoman’s work done by community colleges to better local cities and towns: Ivies, he writes, “disproportionately propel graduates into the Senate, the Supreme Court and other top jobs, but never forget that it is humble community colleges that transform lives at a far greater scale” (emphasis mine).


Numerically, yes. Fundamentally, no

With all due respect to Mr. Kristof (Harvard alum), his wife (on the Harvard Board of Overseers), and his three kids (having gone to school there), that one family of five will have far greater impact “on a far greater scale” than 500 accountants coming out of Bunker Hill Community College. Those 500 accountants will perform invaluable work in helping other people fill out their tax forms. Those five will write the tax laws that govern what those 500 accountants fill out and those 5,000 other people pay. And if those five learned at Harvard how “unjust” America is, how capitalism must be “reformed” by “socialism,” etc. etc., and then get jobs in “the Senate, the Supreme Court, and other top jobs,” they will far and away cancel out, by executing their skewed vision, the humble services the community college grads fulfill.

The Times is clearly on the trope that racially-based college admissions decisions merely opened doors to the gatekeeping schools and was supposedly not a broad-based phenomenon. My reflection [here] on this elite exercise in virtue signalling pretending to be self-flagellation (from privileged perches), noted “the dirty little secret: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology produces the worker bees that supervise the workers who do the dirty work that keeps the power on for those Harvard geniuses filling policy jobs in [government] shutting down coal mines.”

So, Mr. Kristof — as I wave away the smoke in my eyes — please clarify just who “transforms lives on a far greater scale?” P.S.: You might want to look in a mirror.


Transfiguration Is No Isolated Event

Most Catholics hear about the Transfiguration five weeks before Easter; it is always the theme of the Gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent. The actual feast on August 6 only falls on Sunday every couple of years (like 2023), but when it does, it preempts the Sunday liturgy.

I fear many Catholics fail to see the continuity of salvation history. The Transfiguration is not just some “nice thing that happened to Jesus.” Jesus’ transfigured body — it was Him but not like Peter, James, and John had seen or known him before — augurs Jesus’ Resurrected Body (which is why the episode is part of our Lenten preparation). And Jesus’ Resurrected Body is not just His, but augurs what “God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor 2:9), already previewed in Mary’s Assumption, to reach its final epiphany in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). Today, we receive a preview. Transfiguration is the basic posture of a Christian, who is also advised by John what he has to do: “Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure” (v. 3).


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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