by Ken Rolheiser
Turning unforgiveness into a priceless pearl

A young girl pleads with her mommy for a $2.00 string of pears for her birthday. After earning money through extra chores and adding her own seventeen pennies to her Grandmother’s one-dollar birthday gift, she gets her heart’s treasure.

Jenny loves those pearls. She wears them everywhere except in the bath or when she is swimming because her mother warned her it might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a loving daddy who read stories to her every night before sleep. One night after the story he asks her, "Do you love me?" "Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you." "Then give me your pearls."

It was too hard to consider. Jenny would give her white horse with the pink tail. The second night daddy asked for the pearls she again said no. “I can give you my baby doll.” As before, daddy said it was okay and kissed her goodnight with an “I love you.”

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her chin trembling and one silent tear rolling down her cheek. She lifted her little hand and opened it. There was her little pearl necklace "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. 

He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure. What are we hanging on to?
(Author unknown).

It is not hard for us to imagine sin in our lives or a wrong that someone else has done to us. Many of us would readily opt for the second. We can imagine a wrong so great that we struggle with forgiveness. “I can’t forgive that,” we say. That is too much. We ask God for help!

The love of Jesus comes along, literally, and takes our wrongs and surrounds them with his love, absorbing our hatred, our sins, or our unforgiveness, and turns it into love and something pure!

We all know the story about how the oyster takes a grain of sand, actually a parasite, and rather than fighting it, surrounds it with something called nacre. Over and over again the oyster surrounds the parasite with nacre. This may go one for years. The result? A beautiful pearl!

In his Good Friday homily 2020 Father Brendan McGuire uses this pearl analogy. “Jesus does that in a most profound way with our sins. He takes in all the anger and the hurt of the world, the poison that has been thrown at him; the hatred and jealousy… and he covers it with the nacre of love.”

He covers it with love until it is a pearl. Then he gives this pearl back to us, the mother pearl of great price. It is that love that conquers all things.

Instead of letting the wrongs we experience in our lives “suck the life force out of us,” McGuire challenges, “we can do what Jesus did, which is to take it in and to isolate it and to cover it with love.”

Instead of these wrongs destroying us, we can actually produce something beautiful, a pearl of forgiveness, of love or of life!

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