A gourmet chef in New York City has created the world’s most expensive pizza.
Called “la Bellissima”, it is topped with caviar, lobster meat and gold leaf for trimming.
The price tag? A whopping one thousand dollars!
If you are like me, you may be thinking to yourself, “For one thousand dollars, that pizza better be the tastiest meal on the planet.” Not only should it be the most delicious pizza you have ever tried, it should also be filling enough to keep you from having to eat for another few weeks!
Now imagine that one day you just happened to be paying a visit to that restaurant with a thousand dollars to spend. Curious to find out just what a $1000 pizza tastes like, you decide to order it. As the plate comes out, the whole restaurant quiets to a hush. A crowd gathers to witness your reaction to the expensive dish.
You take a slice into your hands, sink your teeth into it and draw the first bite into your mouth expecting an explosion of flavor and savory delights.
Instead, you find the pizza bland and flat, no better than any other pizza you have tasted.
Disappointed, you call the waiter over.
“What is wrong?” he asks. “Is the caviar not fresh? Was the cheese moldy? Was there a fly in the sauce?”
You reply that there is nothing wrong with the pizza at all. It just does not taste as good as a thousand dollar pizza should. You explain that if you are going to spend all that money on a meal, it should be phenomenal, not just okay. And no doubt everyone in the restaurant will agree with you.
When we pay a high price for food or any other product, we expect it to be good. The more we pay, the better we expect it to be. No one would argue with that.
Now let us consider this truth not only in terms of the things we buy but in terms of ourselves and our life of faith.
Jesus paid a steep price to buy us back from the bondage of sin. He gave His very life. Since He purchased us at the cost of His blood, He expects us to be good. Like that thousand dollar pizza, Jesus will not be satisfied if we are just okay. It is not enough for us to be nice. It is not enough for us to not hurt anyone. We must be genuinely good, holy as He is holy and perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
This is what Saint Peter tells us in today’s second reading: “Realize that you were delivered from the futile way of life your fathers handed on to you, not by any diminishable sum of silver and gold but by Christ’s blood beyond all price: the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb....”
We might not see ourselves as valuable or worthwhile. When we look in the mirror, we might not see anyone worthy of admiration and respect looking back. But Jesus does. It was for you and me that he shed His precious blood on the cross. It was for you and me that He endured all the tortures of His passion and death. When Jesus looks at us, He sees all the potential we have to be loving, generous people. When Jesus looks at you and me, He sees someone worth dying for.
Besides dying for us, He has also given us everything we need to grow in virtue and holiness. He has given us His word to burn in our hearts and teach us how we are to live. We have the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, by which we can recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. We have the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us in Baptism and Confirmation, who inspires us to choose the things of God. We have the Church which ensures that the teachings of Jesus are kept alive for every generation of believers. With all these tools at our disposal there is no excuse for us not to be the best people we can be, a people worthy of the steep price He paid to redeem us.
We would have strong words for the chef who dared to serve us a one thousand dollar pizza which was anything less than spectacular. Jesus likewise has strong words for any of His followers who fail to catch on fire with His love. In the book of Revelation, he says “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold....So, because you are lukewarm....I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Considering all this, we must make every effort through God’s grace to not only go through the motions but to put our heart and soul into worship and adoration of our Heavenly Father. We must strive not only to avoid hurting others but to go out of our way to feed the hungry, comfort the sorrowful and ease the burden of the downtrodden. It should be our goal not only to be “nice” but to be women and men of genuine virtue marked by patience, gentleness, humility and above all, love. It was so that we could be such people that Jesus died on the cross for us.
If we do strive to be genuinely good and holy people, then, when our life on earth is over, we can approach Jesus with confidence knowing that if he paid such a high price for us, he will find us worthy to share eternal life with him forever in heaven.