The Pearl of Great Price
[1Kgs.3:5, 7-12; Rom.8:28-30; Mt.13:44-52]
In 2006, a Filipino fisherman found the world’s biggest pearl, weighing 34 kilos. It was worth around $130m. [i]
Surprisingly, he didn’t sell it. For 10 years he kept it under his bed and used it as a good luck charm. Then he lent it to his city council for use as a tourist attraction. Clearly, this fisherman’s treasure wasn’t money.
Here’s another story about treasure, from Anthony de Mello.
Just outside the village, a wise man settled down under a tree for the night. Then a villager ran up to him saying, ‘The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!’
‘What stone?’ asked the wise man.
‘Last night God appeared to me in a dream,’ said the villager, ‘and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a wise man who’ll give me a precious stone that will make me rich forever.’
The wise man rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. ‘He probably meant this one,’ he said, and he gave it to the villager. ‘I found it on a forest path. You can have it.’
The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, probably the largest diamond in the world – as large as a person’s head. He took the diamond and walked away. But all night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. At dawn the next day he woke the wise man and gave it back to him.
He said, ‘Give me the wealth that lets you give away this diamond so easily.’ [ii]
Now, that’s the question, isn’t it? How do these people give up such treasure so easily?
In today’s first reading, God appears to young King Solomon in a dream, and says, ‘Ask me what I should give you.’
Now, Solomon can ask for anything at all. He can choose fabulous wealth, long life, a sharp mind, or even for his enemies to disappear. But he doesn’t ask for any of these things. What he wants is a heart full of wisdom.
Solomon wants to be a good leader, for his treasure is his people. God likes this answer and gives him a heart that’s wiser than anyone else’s in history.
In today’s Gospel there’s even more treasure. The first is in Jesus’ brief Parable of the Poor Workman. A man is ploughing a farmer’s field, when he stumbles upon some buried treasure. (That wasn’t so unusual in those days. Before the banks, people hid their valuables.) The excited workman sells everything he has to buy that field, and the treasure is all his.
The second is in Jesus’ parable about a rich merchant who finds a rare pearl and sells everything he has to possess it.
Now, what is this rare pearl, this great treasure? It’s the kingdom of God. Most people seem to think that God’s kingdom is somewhere up there, high in the sky. But God’s kingdom is not a geographical place. It’s a state of the heart. It’s the power of God’s love working in and through our hearts and lives.
It’s the most precious thing in the world.
The message from all these stories is that the greatest treasure of all isn’t diamonds or pearls or money. It’s the love of God, and it’s available to everyone, rich and poor alike. And we don’t have to go anywhere special to find it, for we can find it wherever we are. Even as we go about our daily lives.
The merchant found it after a long search. The workman found it in his day job. But like young King Solomon, we need hearts of wisdom to see and appreciate this remarkable treasure.
When we do find it, though, it will transform our lives. That’s what St Paul found on the road to Damascus. When he met Jesus, he fell off his horse and it changed his life completely. He knew he had to give up everything else to possess this great gift.
And so it is with us. When we truly discover Jesus, our lives change, too. But to possess this treasure, we must be prepared to pay a price. That price is letting go of whatever else used to obsess us.
‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,’ Jesus tells us (Mt.6:21). So, what is your treasure? Is it Jesus himself?
When Jesus really is your treasure, it becomes easy to give other things away.
[ii] De Mello, Anthony. The Song of the Bird. Doubleday, NY, 1984:140-141.