The Pearl of Great Price
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is on offer to us at every single moment of our lives.
In today’s gospel passage from the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus offers several smaller vignettes to illustrate to the crowd the truth about the kingdom of heaven. Much can be said about each of these wonderful images, but we will focus on just one that may be a bit more familiar to us. Our Lord offers us the image of the merchant and the pearl of great price to reflect on, and we will spend some time with it today. As we discussed last week, we need to spend time falling madly in love with the Person of Jesus Christ, and so let us examine what it means to sell all we have for that wondrous pearl, which is itself the deep and unfathomable love of the Sacred Heart of Christ.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls” (Mt 13:45). Let us first set up the scene into which we will go with Our Lord. We may imagine ourselves at a busy marketplace, vendors and buyers bustling about all clamoring to get what they desire. We make our way through the crowds, carrying along our cart. On these four wheels rest all of our possessions, everything that we hold dear. Indeed, it is our very life that we carry. Crammed in and tied tightly together so that nothing may be lost, we hold onto our wants and desires, our freedom, our cherished memories, our relationships, our fears, our wounds, etc. Yet, with all of this, we search to acquire more, for those “fine pearls” that will make us happy, that will finally make all the trudging around worthwhile.
“He finds a pearl of great price” (Mt 13:46). Now, the gospel does not elaborate on how the merchant comes to find this great treasure, so with the help of the Holy Spirit and the gift of our imagination, let us further examine our scene. We come to a small vendor booth, tucked in the corner of the square. Before us is a wooden bin filled with pearls. At last! Surely our pearl is in here somewhere. So, we dig and scrounge through it, pearl after pearl, holding them up to the light to gauge their quality, and tossing them aside when we deem them insufficient. Each one seems better than the next. How can we choose? “What if I don’t look hard enough? I might miss the pearl that has been waiting for me. What a shame that would be!” Finally, our fingers clasp around a pearl of exceptional beauty. It shines with a radiant luster, indeed, it is “pleasing to the eyes” (Gen 3:6). “This must be it!” But as we gaze at it, we feel upon ourselves a different kind of gaze. Looking up, we see the vendor and owner of the pearls, watching us with great care. We see Our Lord.
We hold His gaze for some time. There is a look in those soft and gleaming eyes that knows something that we do not. His tender smile strikes our heart. What could be going on inside His head? “Perhaps He is pleased that we have found the best pearl, the one that was meant for us.” We present it to Him for purchase so we can make it our own, that we might delight in the splendor and beauty of this pearl. But after looking at us and the pearl, He instead turns away, as if to look for something. Thoughts begin to race in our mind. “What is He doing? What did I do wrong? Will He not give me this good? Is He coming back to answer me? Should I just leave the money, take my stuff, and go?” Just as we are about to abandon the booth, He returns. In His Hand, resting peacefully, is a small pearl. It does not match the size or shine of the pearl we found for ourselves. And yet, there is something unique about it. It radiates an unparalleled allure not present in any of the pearls we found in all our rummaging. Everything in our heart and mind yearns for it. “This is the one!” We let our pearl fall back into obscurity amidst the many “fine pearls” and He places His “pearl of great price” into our hands as we inquire about the cost. His price: Our cart, all that we possess.
A great choice now lies before us. “How can I possibly give over everything to Him? Can He even be trusted? What will He do with my stuff once He has it?” It seems that He must be swindling us, for there is no conceivable way that this small pearl could be worth all that we have on our cart. Our eyes meet His again. He seems so glad to give us this particular pearl. In fact, it was not even one on display in the bin, He went and got it for us. As we examine Him, we see He wants and longs for us to have this one over all the others, which must mean something considering He owns all these “fine pearls” and knows each one well as it is His job. And out of all of them, He has chosen this “pearl of great price” for us. He spent time watching us, and He watched us go through all that was His. He knows us, and what will be best for us. Now, He freely offers this particular pearl. The question remains in our hearts, “Do I trust Him?”
Friends, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is on offer to us right now, indeed, at every single moment of our lives. Yes, this pearl appears small and seemingly insignificant compared to the other shiny ones that catch our eye, but this is because Christ became poor by becoming one of us, by becoming human in every way but sin. He took this radical action so that we who are poor might become He who possessed nothing, only that which was given Him by the Father, He who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7). That is far from insignificant. Jesus invites us to do the same now, in this very moment as He offers this pearl of His Heart to us. His Heart is so madly in love with each one of us, and like any lover, He desires to be the one to fulfill and satisfy His beloved’s heart, for indeed, only He truly can. As St. Josemaría Escrivá says of Christ, “He is a mad Man...madly in love!” So too must our response be to Him. He will not force us to make or accept this complete offering, He wants it to be done freely as He freely gives Himself. And why would we give up all of our possessions, all of our goods, all that we cling to so as to make ourselves feel safe and secure? Because love. Indeed, we remember a time when we have been in the arms of someone we love. In holding and being held by the one whom we love and one who loves us, all else ceases to matter. We know that we are secure and safe with them. How much more true this is of the Divine Lover, Jesus Christ!
So, cast off any fear or doubt. Let us make this great choice anew each and every day of our lives as we strive toward sanctity. Let us place all that we hold dear into His hands, so that He may place into our hands what is truly dearest, His Heart. He will not squander or neglect our cart that we have given to Him so generously in love. He will care for it all and watch over it, even going so far as to restore and cleanse what has been dirtied or damaged on our journey. Trust, brothers and sisters, trust in Jesus and His desire for your good so that we too may be like the merchant, who “sells all that he has and buys it” (Mt 13:46), and walk away rejoicing in our only possession, the Heart of Christ Jesus.
Reflection for Prayer:
Spend time with this passage (Mt 13:45-46) and imagine yourself as the merchant.
What is on your cart that you carry?
What “fine pearls” do you find and wish to take to make yourself happy?
What is the “pearl of great price” that Jesus offers? How is asking you to surrender to Him and His merciful Love?
How do you respond to His invitation?
Remember: Jesus is always faithful and He is patient. He will persevere in love, so be gentle and patient with yourself. This is the work of each day over a lifetime.