Year B Lent 4
Have you all been to the new wing of the Art Museum where they keep all the modern art? Do you like it? I don’t know if you all know this but I actually have an art degree from college and I don’t want to brag but I fancy myself a mediocre painter. I occasionally do little tours through the museum and focus on looking at and talking about a handful of paintings at a time. I took a group from Holy Infant a year ago and some of them hadn’t seen the new wing. I told them I’d be happy to wait on a bench for them to return but I’d already been in the new wing once and had no desire to ever return. So they went off and returned about 15 minutes later with such disappointed, confused looks on their faces. Modern art is odd, and it doesn’t seem to take much skill, and it kind of makes you angry to look at because it’s so ugly or pointless. I personally feel that all of these reactions are justified, so if you don’t “get” modern art don’t feel like you’re uneducated or not classy enough. It really isn’t very good. And yet, that artwork is worth millions and millions of dollars.
So what is it worth?
It’s worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
To take another example, one of my favorite books is The Little Prince. The Little Prince was written by a man name Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who was born in 1900 to an aristocratic French family. During World War II he flew reconnaissance missions in an airplane over Germany. On July 31, 1944, he took off in a Lockheed P-38 Lightning to fly on a mission over occupied France—and disappeared forever without a trace. It’s interesting that the book he wrote, Little Prince, involved an airplane crash. During his life, he was married to a woman named Consuelo, and let’s just say their marriage was troubled. He loved her very much, though, and she appears in the Little Prince as a Rose. The Prince has a garden consisting of a single rose. The Rose is vain and demanding, but also fragile and precious and it is his whole world.
It isn’t as though other roses don’t exist or that he doesn’t know about them. His rose looks just like all the other roses. So why does he love it so? He explains, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” In other words, the eye of the lover sees most clearly. And isn’t this the way it always is? It is our family that values us the most, who love us no matter what happens, who know us most deeply. And they don’t merely know facts about you, they know who you are. They see what it is that makes you so uniquely you, so easy to love.
Saint-Exupery loves his wife beyond all words and his character the Little Prince explains that he loves the rose to the point of giving his life for her. He wouldn’t die for just any flower, though, saying to a field of roses, “You’re beautiful, but you’re empty…One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen…Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”
What is a rose worth? To Saint-Exupery, this particular rose was worth everything.
St. Paul says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus. In other words, we are his best work of art. We are his rose.
What are we worth in his eyes? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” We are bought with a price. Our sins had led us to death and destruction and God simply could not let that happen. Would he die for you? Absolutely he would, because he loves you beyond all reason. He sees you, he knows you, and you are precious in his sight.
The value that God places on your head is his very own life. God, we know, is infinitely majestic, so if he pays for us with himself this means that he has placed a worth on you that cannot be quantified, you are infinitely valued. If you are an artwork, sometimes it seems as though the artist has made a mistake, or as though you aren’t as beautiful as the other artwork, realize when he gazes upon you he does not agree. He doesn’t make mistakes and he certainly does not regret the price he has paid to redeem you.
Give him everything you have in return. Give those around you who you love everything you have. He doesn’t count the cost, let’s not count the cost either.