|As the precious pearl lies hid within the humble shell,|
so too the divinity of Christ is veiled by his humanity
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 13:44-52
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
In the Gospel for this Sunday, our Savior begins with two parables: That of the treasure hidden in the field and that of the pearl of great price. “In these two parables Jesus shows the supreme value of the Kingdom of heaven, and the attitude people need if they are to attain it. The parables are very alike, but it is interesting to note the differences: the treasure means abundance of gifts; the pearl indicates the beauty of the Kingdom. The treasure is something stumbled upon; the pearl, the result of a lengthy search; but in both instances the finder is filled with joy.” (from the Navarre Bible Commentary)
As the Church has meditated on the “Parables of the Kingdom” – that is, the parables found in Matthew 13:1-52 (those of the sower, of the weeds, of the mustard seed, of the leaven, of the hidden treasure, of the pearl of great price, and of the net which caught many fish) – she has come to understand these to reveal not only the nature of the Kingdom and of the Church, but also of the person of Jesus. Our Savior is himself the Kingdom of heaven, just as the Church is his mystical body.
Christ Jesus is himself that pearl of great price.
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide comments on Christ as the pearl
“The chief and most precious pearl of all, from which all virtues and all the Saints, like pearls are sprung, and from which they derive their beauty and their value, is Christ Himself. For His Deity in His Humanity is as a pearl hid in a shell. It issued forth of the substance of the Virgin, and the dew of the Spirit, most white, through innocence of life. It was exceeding bright through wisdom; round through the possession of all perfection; having the weight of conscience, the smoothness of meekness, the price of blessedness. For says Pliny, ‘The value of pearls consists in whiteness, size, rotundity, smoothness and weight.’
“Hear what S. Augustine says, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God: for the Word of the Lord shines with the brightness of truth, and is solid with the firmness of eternity, and is every where alike with the beauty of Divinity: when the shell of the flesh is pierced through, God may be perceived.’
“This pearl of Christ, says our Salmeron, is small by humility, but precious in value. Let us bear it on the head of our mind by way of ornament; on our forehead by confessing the faith; in our ears by obedience to the Law, obedience rendered to God in Himself, and our Superiors; on our necks and breasts by love; on our arms by the exercise of good works; in rings on our hands by the gift of discerning spirits; in our girdles by chastity; on our garments by modesty and holy devotion to eternal life; but we ourselves also may become precious pearls, and by this means may induce others to imitate the most holy life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Finally Christ is not only a very precious pearl, but He is also the gem of gems. He is a carbuncle, because He is the light of the world. He is an emerald because He delights the angels by the verdure of His grace. He is strong and invincible as a diamond. He produces joy as a sardius. He heals the leprosy of sin as a chrysoprasus. He assists the bringing forth of good works as a spiritual jasper; He sharpens the intellect as a beryl; He has celestial colour and life, as a sapphire; He resists sleep and drunkenness, as an amethyst; and all the infirmities of the mind, as a hyacinth; He sustained the worry of the passions, as a topaz: He is a sardonyx in brightness and splendour; He is a chrysolite in His golden charity.
“Whence the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are laid with these twelve precious stones, which signify the twelve Apostles of Christ.”