July 27, 2014
A 17-year-old boy was playing basketball in his driveway with his friends. In the course of the game he lost one of his contact lenses. He searched up and down the driveway to find it without success. So he gave up and he went in the house to tell his mother. She undertook the cause and went out to look. In just a few minutes she came in holding the contact lens in her hand. “I don’t get it,” said the boy. “I looked everywhere. How did you do that?” “Well,” she explained, “we were looking for different things. You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $300.”
What we value determines the search. This truth is captured in today’s gospel parable of the merchant. In a few words Jesus presents us with this man whose life is dedicated to searching for fine pearls. They are his heart’s desire. He is enchanted by their beauty and smitten by their perfection. No effort is too great nor no distance too far for him to search for them. Others who are not as fond of pearls might believe that his dedication and excitement are excessive. But this merchant knows what he values. He knows what he wants. And when he finds a pearl of great price, he will sell everything to have it.
Now the scandal of this parable is that God is the merchant, and God is searching for us. There is no explaining why God is so determined to find us. God has already given us our lives, our minds, our abilities, our families and friends. God has already given us his Son and the promise of eternal life. But God wants more. God wants to possess us as his own.
We are the ones who usually pass on this opportunity. We believe in God, and we know that all good things come from God. Yet we pray, “God, thank you for all that I have received—for my life, for my job, for my family and friends—but could you please remain a giver from afar? Why do you have to come so close? I am not really ready to be all in. Can’t I just live a moral life and go to church on the weekends? I love you, and I will praise you. But I really don’t want to be your possession.” Yet despite all of our protests that we are too busy, that we are too fearful, that we are too sinful, God keeps coming. God keeps searching for an opportunity to catch our imagination, to break our routine, to open our hearts so that he can have us. No effort is too great, no distance is too far to keep God from coming, always hoping that we will be willing to go deeper, that we will be willing to hand ourselves over. Then we would see what satisfaction there is in following the gospel, how much sense it makes to forgive our enemies, what energy we would have to work for justice, and what joy would be ours to be God’s own.
We can always say no. We can always resist this deeper relationship. But God does not give up. What God values determines the search, and to God we are not a small piece of plastic. We are a pearl of great price. He wants us to be his. And so in the end it is both sensible and wise to give in. In fact, it is our salvation to let ourselves be found.