Selling the Pearls of Great Value
Sunday Homily for July 27, 2008
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
By Father Clyde A. Bonar, Ph.D.
In the Broadway musical "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye and his wife Golde have five daughters. It’s time for their oldest daughter to get married. In those days, all marriages were arranged. Fathers and mothers would ask a matchmaker to find husbands for their daughters.
That just right man is out there somewhere. All the match-maker has to do is find him.
Tevye’s daughters sing, "Matchmaker, matchmaker, Find me a find, Catch me a catch."
Gems Who Live Their Faith
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us the merchant found a pearl of great value. He found a find. Let me tell you where to find a find. Right in our own families. God made us pearls and when we live our faith, when we show love, when we follow Christ, we are pearls of great value.
Start with our children. I remember Sean, an altar server. Sean always checked to see if another server is needed. Or, there's Katie, at her first Communion, that big smile on her face, saying, "look at me, all dressed up, I'm making my First Holy Communion." No doubt, in their youth, in their freshness, in their energy, in their spontaneous love of Jesus, our children are pearls of great value.
Reaching their teens, these precious pearls are a delight. Proud parents watch their daughter Sally score the winning point at the soccer game; or their son Bill, the drum major with the band, leading the parade. And proud parents watch their sons and daughters with the youth group at church washing cars or serving in one of the ministries at Mass.
God looks at our teen years and smiles. He watches the young boys and girls discover who they are. A hint of a talent, a cautious step to tryout that talent. Then, the delights of accomplishment. Parents applaud, teammates cheer.
Of course, parents are no less gems. Precious pearls, parents who change diapers and
make mortgage payments and chauffeur kids and sit up late to ensure a son or daughter gets home safely, and parents who bring their families to Mass each weekend. Mothers and fathers live a sacrificial love for their children.
As the children get older, they realize more and more the pearls their parents are. Susan tells of having difficulty with her pregnancy. She calls her mother, and they talk. About being joy-filled and also scared. Finally, her mother places her hands on her daughter's stomach and they pray together. A moment of mother-daughter intimacy. Susan knows her mother is, always has been, a pearl of great value.
In the elder years, grandparents shine. A visit to grandma's brings the smell of freshly baked bread, rolls hot from the oven for dinner. In church, the deep Catholic faith of our grandfather and grandmother touches our souls. A faith tested by a lifetime of shared struggles, love of God and love for each other the firm foundation of their married life together.
Look at any age, and we recognize the precious pearls God made us. When we show love, when we act with great faith, we are sparkling gems. In our own families, we see treasures, pearls special in the eyes of God.
We Are the Pearls
The parable continues. The merchant "sells all that he has and buys" the pearl. That’s what God did for us. Here's the truth. We are the pearls of great price. To buy us pearls, Christ died on the Cross.
Check the Bible. Time and again in the Bible God tells us how precious we. Pearls of great value. In Genesis (1:27) we read: God created us in his image. What greater honor could God have given to us? "In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them." The sons and daughters of God the Father in heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit into our hearts (Galatians 4:5-6).
We know how precious sons and daughters are. Look at any parent. We call a newborn child a "bundle of joy." So too, us with God. Chips off the old block. Pearls of great value to God.
Remember the song: "Jesus loves me, yes, I know. For the Bible tells me so." The Bible (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8) calls us the "apple of God's eye." Always the good parent, God protects us like the mother eagle hovering over her nest of young (Deuteronomy 32:10). It’s all in the Old Testament: God made us in his image, and loves us like his children.
Then, in the New Testament we read in John's gospel (3:16): "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son." To tell us of God's love for you and me, God the Son walked among us. Performed miracles and told us stories. Finally, on the Cross Jesus sacrificed his life for us. Jesus gave up his divinity (Philippians 2:6-7), died like a criminal (Luke 23:32-33).
That's love. All for the pearl of great value. To buy the treasure Jesus died on the Cross. And that treasure, that pearl, is you and me.
To Sell These Pearls
But, what good is a pearl if we go broke buying it? When the merchant sold all he had, he had no money to buy food or to pay his rent. The merchant now has to sell the pearl to have money for the necessities of life.
There’s a lesson for us. We are expected to use the gifts God gave us to build up the kingdom of heaven. To obtain the silvery white luster of the pearl, Christ calls us pearls to use our time, talent, and treasure, to give our all, to build up the kingdom.
A delightful book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten repeats good Christian teachings in everyday language. Robert Fulghum, the author, writes that he learned to: "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."1
If we follow the lessons we learned in kindergarten, we become for the kingdom the silvery white pearl. In the kingdom we do follow the Golden Rule, we ask forgiveness when we hurt someone. Or, better still, we do not hit anyone in the first place. We live a balanced life of work and play, we worship God and we help other people.
A poor Irish widow had a pearl of great value as her son. Because she was so poor the parish helped the widow with food and rent money. Her son had emigrated to New York and became very successful.
One day the pastor asked Mrs. O’Leary if she ever heard from her son. Proudly the widow answered, "Bob writes me every week and always encloses a picture." Thinking he’d see some family photos, the pastor asked to see the pictures. Bringing in her Bible, she showed the pastor a Bible stuffed with pictures of Benjamin Franklin. Those are $100 bills, in case you missed it!.
Bob had been trying to help his mother for years. A loving son, Bob had the luster of a silvery white pearl.
The merchant sold all he had to buy the pearl of great value. God calls us to give our all to build up the kingdom of heaven. Only as we live our faith do we obtain the silvery white luster of the cultured pearl.
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant [who] finds a pearl of great value, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."
We are pearls, no doubt about it. "The apples of God’s eye." Full of talent, with a multitude of interests.
Question is, As a pearl do we keep ourselves locked in the safe deposit box, never to be seen? Or, do we build up the kingdom of heaven? Are we silvery white pearls or pearls who have lost their luster? Most of us would sparkle more with some polishing. Let's get out that polishing cloth.