Your Pearl of Great Price

Warren Eckstein, the world famous pet expert, was once complaining to me about something that he didn’t like that was going on at the radio station we worked at together. He suddenly stopped himself mid-sentence…

“I should stop complaining. I could be digging ditches somewhere.”

This past weekend my colleague, Bonnie, who acts with me at the simulation center, made an astounding remark. We were both a bit sleepy on an early morning assignment and Bonnie said:

“You know, there are days I don’t want to go to dance class. But I then start to think how fortunate I am to be living in the United States and that I have the opportunity to go to dance class. Because if I were living somewhere else, I’d still be a dancer. I just wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Both Warren and Bonnie are people who make their living by engaging their passion. Warren’s been doing it for decades and Bonnie is just in the springtime of her career. But they both have made a decision to live for what keeps them passionate. Warren can’t imagine a life without animals and Bonnie couldn’t imagine not dancing or acting.

They found their pearl of great price and despite struggle they can’t imagine parting with it. To do so would negate an integral part of themselves, the way they have chosen to express their joy to the world.

I suppose I feel the same way about ministry. And it took me a long time to be able to say that.

Because you see many of us bury the pearl of great price that we find. For me, I was having all these rich experiences in retreat work and in parish life as a volunteer. I just never thought it was worth the risk to go into ministry full-time. Strangely enough, my media prowess didn’t come into full force until I made that switch to ministry.

My upcoming book, Loving Work, is about a month away from press. And we discuss this very topic, the subject of today’s Gospel parable from Jesus. I found this line interesting:

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Well, sure! Of course the person does that. But what of the person who buried it to begin with? Why would he bury something so precious? Or perhaps it wasn’t so precious to him or her after all?

A lot of people thought that my great pearl was working in New York City radio. It was fun, to be sure. I was good at it, certainly. But I didn’t start setting the world on fire until I made a switch to ministry. Even later in my ministry career I had to realize that my passion is being a pastoral person and not a media guru. I use media now, for a pastoral means and not for media’s sake (or profit’s sake, for that matter).

What might your pearl of great price be? For many, it just might be right under their nose. We tend to complain about our jobs, our relationships, and a whole lot more. But deep down, haven’t some of us just forgotten how much we love the people and the careers that we have already? Where did we first stoke that passion? How might we recapture it now?

Or is something else beckoning, that treasure that we’ve hidden safely away and that we might be afraid to dig up again? For to do so would require risk on our part and perhaps a bit of painful change. I remember thinking that I wasted time by staying in my radio career so long. But I also think that radio prepared me for so much and I made so many great friends and colleagues and have some really rich stories and experiences now from those years. (Many in my new book, by the way).

What is your pearl? Where might God be calling you? Are you too frightened to follow that call? What else prevents you from doing so?

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, my favorite saint. I leave you today with his words:

“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”

Amen.

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