Pearl of Great Price
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

A few months ago I was shopping for pearls in a vacation resort – the kind of pearl that tourists bring home as souvenirs. I saw some pearls displayed in a locked cabinet and for curiosity’s sake I asked about the price. A set which consisted of a pair of ear rings and a ring cost almost thirty thousand pesos. The set I had in my hands costs thirty pesos. Why the thousand times difference? The vendor said, one is genuine while the other is “cultured”. In my untrained eyes they looked similar. Real pearls are expensive. Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was said to have possessed a pearl worth tons of gold.

Action starter: What do you live for? What will you die for?

The Gospel this Sunday tells the story of a merchant who sold everything he had to purchase a really valuable pearl (Mt. 13: 44-52). He knew he could make a great profit from it. One could imagine his joy at discovering it. That is perhaps the reason why some people enjoy going to flea markets. There is a chance that one may find a barely used or even a brand new signature item. A friend of mine saw a pair of Gucci shoes that were not even scratched at the heels. He did not hesitate to pay the two hundred pesos asking price. That pair would cost six thousand pesos in the mall.

We find joy in such material items. Do we find joy in those that feed the soul and uplift the spirit? What price will you pay for the smile of a child? For the happiness of your family? For a sense that life is worthwhile? For liberty and security? For a new heaven and a new earth? For eternal happiness? For a better world? What would you give your life for?

Each person must discover for herself what really is worth pursuing in life. The tragedy would be when one possesses the pearl and finds out it is not the real thing. When a person has spent his energies, sacrificed his health, his honor, his family and friends for the sake of what the world calls success, what has he accomplished? Friends, family and integrity are pearls of great price. Indeed, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

In our present Philippine realities, we could ask, what is it that Filipinos make sacrifices for? Given the global economy, thousands of Filipinos leave the country everyday in order to work abroad. Why do fathers and mothers endure months and years of absence from their families as overseas foreign workers? The common answers we hear are: for better lives for their families, for the education of the children, or because opportunities are lacking in the country. The decision to leave or not to leave is not an easy one. Each mother that leaves faces the dilemma of leaving her child in the care of another while she takes care of another child in a foreign land.

What is your pearl of great price? Our national hero Ninoy Aquino who was killed for resisting the Marcos military regime found his pearl of great price as he said, “The Filipino is worth dying for.” The first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz who was tortured to death as a lay missionary in Japan, considered his faith as the pearl of great price. He declared that he would rather suffer a thousand deaths than deny his Christian faith. Nelson Mandela who just turned ninety this year is recognized as a living icon of the struggle for freedom and human rights. He endured many years as a political prisoner.

There are many other people who have found their pearl of great price, whether it is protecting the environment, fighting human trafficking, advocating for the right to life of the unborn, or promoting the freedom to practice one’s religion. We may wonder what keeps such people going in the light of many oppositions. The letter of Paul gives us a hint, “ We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). For the Christian disciple, his perseverance in the mission comes from knowing that what he is doing is pleasing to God.