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The Gospel from this past Tuesday has Jesus speaking about pigs. Anytime someone speaks about pigs I’m interested. My dad just sold off the last of his pigs after over 50 years as a pig farmer. Raising hogs was one of my favorite parts of growing up on the farm. I took to the pigs so much that my parents often said that I kept my room like a pig. My dad would even comment that he thought I was born in a barn.  These were wonderful compliments. :-)

Jesus speaks of not throwing our pearls before swine (Mt. 7:6). There are a number of ways to interpret this passage in a spiritually fruitful way. First we must ask what are the pearls and what are the swine? St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of our heart as a pearl. In the past I have always used the image of a pearl to refer to truth, and this is certainly a legitimate interpretation, however, to consider the heart as a pearl is intriguing. St. Gregory goes on to say that our passions end up disfiguring the pearl of the heart by corrupting our thoughts, words and actions. He uses the word, “slime.” That is great pig imagery as pigs slime-up everything they touch.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, passions or feelings are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil (CCC, 1763). Accordingly, the CCC use the words passion and feeling interchangeably. Most of the time we use the word passion in a negative sense, i.e., emotions that move us toward something that is immoral.  The passions can always be related to the seven capital sins. A person can have lustful or gluttonous or prideful passions/feelings.

St. Gregory is saying that when we expose our pearl, the heart, to the passions, bad things happen. He says the pearl becomes slimed. Accordingly, we are challenged not to expose our hearts to the passions of vice.  The passions of vice are emotions associated with the seven capital sins, e.g., slothful emotions, which lead to committing the capital sin, e.g., sloth, when we allow the pearl of our heart to follow the vicious passion.  The only result from casting our pearls before the swine of passion is the slime of ugly thoughts, words and deeds.

Pope Francis recently said ( June 15) that Christians must “guard their hearts” and that to guard one’s heart is “to be free from the passions.”  The Pope goes on to say that we guard our heart (pearl) through humility, meekness, never by battle or war.

In order to discover the joy of the Gospel, we must be intentional and fervent about not exposing the pearl of our hearts to the pigs of passion that lead to all forms of slimy thoughts, words and actions.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak

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