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July 1999

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it. (Matt 10:39) 

In this very short parable Jesus catches the imagination of his listeners. Everyone realised the value of pearls which, together with gold, were the most precious goods known at that time. Furthermore, the Scriptures spoke of wisdom, that is of the knowledge of God, as something that could not be likened ‘to any priceless gem’. (Wis. 7:9).

But what stands out in the parable is how strange, surprising and unexpected it must have been for the merchant to spot the pearl. Perhaps he saw it in a bazaar and only his expert eye could tell its enormous value, which meant he could make an excellent profit from it. This is why, having weighed everything up, he decided it was worth selling all he owned to buy the pearl. And who would not have done the same in his place?

So the profound meaning of the parable is this: the meeting with Jesus, which means with the kingdom of God amongst us (this is the pearl!) is a unique opportunity that we must grasp while we have the chance, dedicating to it all our energies and all we possess.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

This was not the first time that the disciples had found themselves facing a very radical demand, facing, that is, the everything they must leave in order to follow Jesus; all that was most precious to them, such as family affections, financial security, certainty for the future.

But Jesus' demands are not absurd or without purpose. In place of the ‘everything' that is lost there is an 'everything' that is found and which is inestimably more precious. Each time Jesus asks something he also promises to give much, much more, a superabundance.

So in this parable he assures us that we will receive a treasure which will make us rich forever.

And even if it seems a mistake to leave what is certain for what is uncertain- what is sure for a mere promise- let's think of that merchant. He knows that the pearl is very precious and he waits confidently fond what its sale will bring him.

Likewise, whoever wants to follow Jesus, knows and sees, with the eyes of faith, what an immense gain it will be to share with him the inheritance of the kingdom, for having left everything, at least in a spiritual sense.

God offers everyone an opportunity like this in life, so that they can grasp it.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

This is a practical invitation to put aside all the 'idols' that can take the place of God in our heart: a career, marriage, studies, a beautiful house, our profession, sport, entertainment.

It is an invitation to put God in the first place, at the top of our thoughts and affections, because everything in life must converge on him and everything must start from him. By doing this, by seeking the kingdom of God, the rest will be given to us as well, according to the Gospel promise (Cf. Luke 12:31). Having put aside everything for the kingdom, we receive the hundredfold in houses, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers (cf. Matt 19:29), because the Gospel has a clear human dimension: Jesus is man and God and, together with spiritual food, he guarantees us bread, a house, clothing, a family.

Perhaps we should learn from the "little ones" to trust more in the Father's Providence. God does not let those who, out of love, have given the little they had, go without the things they need.

For some time now, a group of young men in Congo have been making artistic greetings cards out of banana skins for sale in Germany. At first they kept all the profits for themselves (some of them used it to maintain a whole family). Now they have decided to put half the profit in common and, in so doing, 35 unemployed youths have been helped.

But God does not allow himself to be outdone in generosity. Two of these young men gave such a witness of life, in the shop where they work that several traders came there to look for staff. Because of this eleven of them have found permanent jobs

Chiara Lubich

 

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