In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear several parables where Jesus describes the kingdom of God to his disciples.
“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.” (Matthew 13: 45-46)
This particular description of the kingdom has always captured my spiritual imagination. One of the benefits of age is being able to look back on the years of your life and reflect on the “pearls of great price” that have formed your life and who you are.
Some of the “pearls of great price” come to mind easily for me:
- My loving family and nurturing childhood
- My Catholic school education
- Forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- The Most Holy Mass
- Finding a spiritual home in my parish and participation in parish life
Jesus goes on to ask his disciples: “Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” (Matthew 13: 51)
How would I have responded to this same question? I can hear in my mind a long pause forming in response. It took me a long time to recognize the spiritual value of many of the “pearls of great price” in my life and even longer to appreciate and be grateful for them. I also know that for myself, understanding “these things” is very different than putting them into practice and doing them.
Understanding the Pearl
John Shea, the theologian, and storyteller, tells us that the pearl of great price is understood to be our spiritual core. He calls it “the one, true treasure.” He explains that it’s not found on the surface of life; it is hidden, buried in the field of ourselves.
As human beings we are always looking to connect with the source of who we are. This pearl of great price is our relationship with God. If we understand this most important life-giving relationship of our lives, then we can be open to our spiritual identity as children of God.
Finding the Pearl is Not Enough
Once we find this pearl, we come to realize that “finding” is not enough. The full experience of the kingdom includes the buying and selling part. We are expected to grow spiritually throughout our lives. We are expected to transform ourselves. What was found has to be bought. We have to let go (sell) our old beliefs, choices, and habits and make room for the new, life-giving experiences that the kingdom offers us. Our “yes” has to go far beyond just saying we understand the kingdom. We have to embrace the newness of life that the kingdom offers us. We need to ask ourselves, “What is the kingdom worth to me?”
“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)
The Pearl of Great Price – The Eucharist
“The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all its members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on His Body which is the Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1407)
We are blessed by the National Eucharistic Revival that is underway in the USA. It is a movement to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery, by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. At the celebration of the Holy Mass, Jesus completely transubstantiates mere bread and wine into his own Body and Blood, and invites us to take him inside of us so that we might become more and more like him. The One who is hidden in the tiny host is worth more than everything else on earth.
May we accept Jesus’ invitation to the Eucharist and wholeheartedly respond,
“May I become what I have received.” That is life in the Kingdom!!
Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.