“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding a pearl of great value, he went and sold everything that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46
A merchant gave up every earthly thing he possessed to possess one, singular pearl worth more than the entire world. Oh, how he rejoiced in the ownership of that treasure! There was none like it in all the earth. Soon, however, a conviction came upon him that this treasure was not his alone — it was meant to be shared. So, he took the pearl to his closest friend. That friend was awed and humbled at the gift. He too was convicted to pass the pearl along. And so it went — from one grubby hand to another — and each person who received it was touched to the heart.
In time, the merchant came to realize that while all who laid hold of the pearl were blessed beyond measure, by traveling hand to hand, only a few were able to experience the blessing. So he had the most gifted jeweler in his country craft a fine filigree housing of the purest gold for the pearl and an equally fine chain to hang it on. The merchant commissioned a roadside shrine and hung the pearl within. Now dozens of people could discover the blessings of the pearl at one time.
Word of the pearl of price beyond measure, whose blessings were freely shared with all, after many years, came to the ears of a wealthy noblewoman. She undertook a long journey to see the pearl for herself, and she too, was overwhelmed by its simplicity and its beauty. The original merchant and his friends had long since passed away. The roadside shrine continued to attract visitors, but could only accomodate a few at a time. The noblewoman, too wanted to spread the message of the pearl, but felt its environs too humble for such a magnificent jewel. So, she commissioned a grand cathedral to take the place of the roadside shrine and hung the peverarl on its chain high up on a splendid altar so many more could come and admire it. To show her own commitment, the noblewoman attached to the pearl’s finding the most precious and valuable gem she owned.
As the noblewoman had hoped, many more people came to the great cathedral to see the pearl. And many more had their hearts changed upon experiencing it. Those who were wealthy sought to honor the message of the pearl by adorning it with their own most precious gems. Over the course of many years, the pearl became surrounded by so many diamonds, sapphires, rubies and gold that the pearl itself was hidden from view. Pilgrims from far and near streamed in great numbers to the cathedral, but now, not so much to experience the power of the pearl but to marvel at the jewels encrusting it. People came and were awed. They paid homage to the gems upon the altar, but the hearts of very few were changed. Instead, pilgrims stealthily snatched bits from the display, carried them home, and built their own magnificent cathedrals in honor of the legend of the pearl.
Many centuries passed. A scholar who had visited many cathedrals and found them wanting, came to the first edifice which had been expanded into an enormous basilica. Day after day, he came seeking the pearl which lay behind the legend he had heard all his life. He hid in the cathedral when the massive doors were closed so he could search undisturbed in the night. On a night when a full moon cast muted colors from the stained glass upon the altar, the scholar finally found the original pearl. And like the first merchant, he rejoiced had found
Boldly, he removed the pearl but left all the other treasures untouched. He took to the streets proclaiming the message of the pearl. Once more it passed from hand to hand, transforming all who would receive it. The scholar welcomed students into his home to learn about the pearl’s true message, then sent them out to share it with all they encountered.
Time passed and the scholar died, and eventually all the students who had heard him teach also passed away. One day a student of one of the students, weary with travel, decided the best way to share it was for people to come to it. He built a chapel and hung the pearl upon the altar…