The Pearl of Great Price
by Rev. Stanley Krempa
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus said to his disciples: The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, 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 that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old."
Most people at some point in their lives dream of “striking it rich.” It might be our imagining that we will win a lottery and how it would change our life. Many years ago, there was a program in the early years of television called “The Millionaire.” The program’s premise was a weekly story about a person who is given a check for a million dollars. The rest of the story described what that gift had done to that person’s life.
Some people hunt for treasure. “Treasure Hunt” is more than a children’s game. Today hunting for treasure is a billion dollar industry using an array of hi-tech instruments as deeply committed people hunt for buried or sunken treasure.
The Lord gives us two brief parables about striking it rich in today’s Gospel reading. The first is about a merchant in search of fine pearls. The other is about a man who discovers a treasure in a field.
Many people are looking for the “pearl of great price” throughout their lives. Maybe they identify their “pearl of great price” as being a career or good fortune in the stock market. It might be an ambition, an award, a title or a position. Some people can spend a lifetime in search of their “pearl of great price.”
What is interesting is how that “pearl of great price” changes as we grow older.
When we were very young, our “pearl” may have been a bicycle then later a car. Shortly after that, it was a date for the prom with a special person, then an opening to a career. Later, it became a wife or husband and then a family. Later, our “pearl of great price” may be solid and loyal friendships, a family at peace and ultimately peace of soul. At every stage of our life there is a “pearl of great price” for which we search.
In the second half of the Gospel today, Jesus describes the church as a huge net hauling in all kinds of fish and the fishermen or angels separating the good from the bad.
At the end of our life when our career is over, as we sift through our memories, the causes about which we cared, the ambitions we nurtured, what will we keep as valuable and what will we discard as transitory and even useless?
What is our “pearl of great price?” The truth of the shifting content of the “pearl of great price” enables us to see that the real pearl of great price is not material but spiritual. It is found in a lived relationship with the Lord Jesus as our constant companion in life. In Him, St. Paul writes, we have been called. Through Him we have been justified in Baptism and by Him we will someday be glorified.
The real “pearl of great price” is our faith, our vital, personal relationship with Christ in the church. That faith gives our life unity, purpose, mission and dignity.
Searching for the “pearl of great price” or for buried treasure can fill our life with tons of excitement and anticipation. But our real fulfillment comes not from buried treasure or precious pearls. It comes from the Lord.
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