17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 26, 2020
“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 furniture that didn’t fit. They had a vintage 1930’s original Duncan Phyfe solid mahogany dining room set in an extensive state of disrepair and put an ad in the “Pennysaver” to unload it. Someone called and came out to look at it, and haggled my parents down to $90.00 for this set (remember, this is 1978). Imagine my mother’s surprise when the next day a large black 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: as a genuine original Duncan Phyfe, when fully restored it will be worth many thousands of dollars!”
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; the Eucharist many have been unable to receive because of the Coronavirus; hitting bottom in 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 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 this, we run the risk of reaching the end of our life without ever truly realizing what was 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.