July 30th, 2023
The gospel we just heard has some surprising comparisons to the Kingdom of God – a kingdom that is not measured in acres, or miles, or limited by any kind of geography we might imagine. It is a kingdom, in fact, whose size could be small enough to hold in your hand or bury in a field. What matters is not its size. What matters is its worth. The gospel assures us: it is a rare treasure, as precious as a pearl.
The kingdom – a treasure of great value and letting go in order to possess it, are the phrases that help to capture the central message of this Sunday. This Sunday Jesus uses three parables to help us discover how we could move from life without Christ to life in Christ by living the values of the kingdom. In other words, Jesus gives us concrete examples on personal commitment and response to kingdom values, the treasure of great value.
In the first two parables, Jesus uses familiar images and commercial values of his time, which are still valid today. In the first parable, Jesus shows us that once we have discovered the value of the kingdom, we should sell all we own, in order to possess it. We are challenged to give up everything we value most, in order to be part of this kingdom. Therefore, it is not so much the treasure, but our personal conviction and commitment to do all we can to live the values of the kingdom.
The decisive question for us is whether we are prepared to let go those things that we consider are valuable for the sake of possessing Christ fully and live in accordance with the kingdom values that he teaches. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven is much more valuable than anything we possess. That is the treasure that Jesus reveals to us. Therefore there is much wisdom in trying to possess it.
In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment. Wisdom is much more than just possessing a lot of things or a long life. It gives someone discernment of what really matters most in life. We know what mattered most in St. Paul’s life. Writing to the Philippians Paul says, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things, and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
The Gospel passage tells us that “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which one finds and hides again….” He then goes and sells everything that he had, in order to buy that field to secure the treasure. The idea obviously is that when one really discovers Jesus Christ, everything else becomes secondary.
The person in the parable finds the treasure as it were accidentally, while digging a field that perhaps belongs to someone else. In the same way, one may encounter Jesus Christ completely and unexpectedly, and then make all efforts to secure him like the treasure of great value. This implies real personal commitment and transformation of the person.
Remember the story of the rich young man approached Jesus and asked what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus sensed the possibility that this young man may have been keeping all the commandments except the first, the source of all the others: “,,. you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”. He replied: ” . . . go, sell what you have and give to the poor . . . then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this reply to his question, he went away sad, for he had many possessions”.
There is only one treasure that brings happiness, and that treasure is Jesus. The man in the first parable in the Gospel today found the treasure (kingdom of heaven) and went off happy. If we’re not happy we still haven’t found Jesus or the kingdom of heaven. If you’re not happy, my advice is that turn to Jesus and then you will find the happiness you seek. Do we have to set out on a journey to find this treasure and do we need a map? Yes, we do! The journey is the journey into our own hearts, and the map has been given us by Jesus himself.
n the first two parables in the Gospel today the men sold everything they had to acquire either the treasure or the pearl. Searching for Jesus and the kingdom of heaven means we face choices and must make decisions, sometimes hard decisions that we would prefer not to have to make. There will be passing treasures that in the short term are tempting but don’t offer us the happiness we really want.
In the first reading Solomon passed up on fleeting treasures in order to have God’s wisdom in order to discern between good and evil. There is the real treasure, Jesus, for whom we sometimes carry our cross in order to find Him, who is the treasure who gives us real happiness. By carrying our cross well, we will discover a pearl inside us, and that pearl is Jesus. See the realization of St Augustine as he wrote, “You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.