17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2017
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all he has to buy that pearl.”
from Matthew 13:44-52
Jesus offers two truly haunting parables this Sunday. In one, a man happens to find a treasure in a field, and with great joy, buys that field with every cent that he has. This man has stumbled upon the most valuable of all possessions by accident while doing his job. The other person is actually searching for a really valuable pearl; and when he finds it, he too goes out and buys it at the cost of everything he has. Yet, what is striking is that in both parables the persons selling the pearl and the field do not know the real value of what they are giving up or they would never have sold them in the first place.
When my grandparents retired, they moved into a smaller home and had to get rid of some furniture that wouldn’t fit. They had a very old dining room set in need of extensive repairs and put an ad in the Pennysaver to unload it. One person called and came out to look and got my parents down to $90.00 for this set. Imagine my mother’s surprise when a limousine from Beverly Hills came to pick it up! As the chauffeur said to me on the way out, “your mom did not know the value of her own possession: it is a genuine original Duncan Phyfe: it will be worth thousands when fully restored!
My parents did not know the value of what they possessed, but do you? What is truly valuable in your life? There must have been many fine pearls in the bin that the man who was searching rejected. In the same way, many go after things in this world that turn out to be quite worthless in the end, and neglect the treasure they had within their grasp all because they did not know what was really valuable in life.
Sometimes God grants us moments of deep grace, often in the midst of suffering, that can help us to realize what is truly important: the death of a loved one; a terminal illness; a national catastrophe; a deep financial setback; attending a funeral; hitting bottom in my life; a true conversion experience; the theft of a valuable item; falling in or out of love.
Jesus makes it clear that absolutely nothing is more important than getting to heaven. Jesus himself, really and truly, is both the pearl of great price and the treasure in the field. We “purchase” him by our faith: by doing what he asks us to do. Without such a profound conversion experience, we run the risk of reaching the end of our life without ever truly realizing what is most important; to love and to be loved, and especially to realize that we have been loved by the Son of God, who wanted to give us eternal life, if only we had recognized how valuable his offer truly was.