Throughout human history, people have been searching for meaning and purpose for their lives. Even ancient civilizations seemed to sense that there had to be more to life than food, shelter and clothing. Their observations of the natural world around them indicated a power and force greater than themselves.
In Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of God, he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
The fine pearl is Jesus. Are we willing to sell everything we have to acquire a friendship with Jesus? Selling everything may include giving up old ways and acquiring new ones. The list can be long and varied. Changing our focus from self to others, finding balance between the demands of career and family, stepping back from gossip and engaging in right speech, listening more and speaking less are just a few examples.
When I met Jesus in a personal way in my mid-thirties, many of my priorities began to change, particularly with respect to balancing the demands of career and family. Previously, career had usually taken precedence. One habit accompanying the dominant concern for career was joining work colleagues at a local watering hole after work on Fridays instead of going home and having dinner with my family. Thereafter, I gave up that habit. Several months later I joined them once again, and since I had been very open in sharing about my renewed faith, one colleague sarcastically asked, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here.” I said, “You’re right,” turned around and left, never to engage that habit again.
If the pearl is friendship with Jesus and coming to know God, then there are also some new things we need to take on. Friendships don’t just happen without time together and coming to know the person involved. Previously, my time in prayer was confined to Sundays at mass or saying grace at meals. Subsequently, God gave me a desire to spend time with him every day, and I changed my schedule to spend about 30 minutes with him every morning before breakfast. Over the last 37 years, we have been meeting for coffee nearly every morning. Previously, I hardly ever read the Bible. Now it is a part of each day’s prayer time. While I am still very capable of sinning, reading Scripture daily helps me come to know God better and take on the mind of his son.
The irony in all of this is that the things I have given up to acquire the pearl of great value — Jesus’ friendship — do not seem to be all that much of a sacrifice. Instead, as the parables say, there is great joy in finding the treasure.