The pearl and the oyster


As I was waiting to buy some fish at the supermarket my attention was drawn to the oysters neatly arranged in lots of twelve and I began to think…an oyster is soft, tender and vulnerable. Without the sanctuary of its shell it couldn’t survive. But sometimes oysters must open their shells in order to ‘breathe” water. Occasionally, while an oyster is breathing, a grain of sand will enter its shell and become part of the oyster’s life from then on.

Such grains of sand, though microscopic, cause the oyster a great deal of pain. But the oyster does not change its soft nature because of a particle of sand. It doesn’t become hard and leathery in order shut out the pain. It continues to open its shell to the ocean, to breathe in order to live.

But the oyster does respond to the suffering in its midst. Over time the oyster wraps the grain of sand in thin translucent layers until it has created something of great value in the place where it is most vulnerable to its pain.

A pearl might be thought of as an oyster’s response to its suffering.

All of us have grains of sand that hurt, irritate and diminish our lives. We have experienced or will experience loss and hopelessness. Such “grains of sand” are a part of everyone’s life. 

Peter’s urging Jesus not to talk about the passion that is before them and keep it “upbeat” is an attempt to deny the reality of suffering. 

For Jesus, the challenge of the pain and disappointment we confront is not to sink into the self-pity or deny our anger or passively accept the role of victim but to accept the reality of our suffering and pain and transform it into “pearls” of generous compassion, humble growth and selfless consolation.

Dr John Frauenfelder, CSO Broken Bay 

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