17th Sunday (A)

Hidden Treasure and the Finest Pearl

 The past two weeks, we have been reflecting on the reality of the kingdom of heaven, which was the most important mission of Jesus in His public ministry. Today it is more centered on the motivation and the commitment of the individual who wants to possess the Kingdom of God and how he achieves it rather a generic expression earlier. This Sunday’s Gospel offers us the final part of chapter 13 of St. Matthew‘s gospel with the parables that compare the Kingdom of God to a treasure, to a precious stone and to a net thrown into the sea that gathers all kinds of fish.

While the parable of the net admonishes that the time of judgment is at the end of time and there is a time dedicated to penance, the parables of the treasure and of the pearl remind us of the necessity of making use of earthly riches in order to enter the kingdom of heaven and rejoice of this membership. These two short stories teach us above all that Jesus, the Savior of man, comes to offer to every person worried for his or her tomorrow, the true treasure and the true pearl that ensures happiness: the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is worth more than things, more than life. It has a prime value for which we must to be ready to sacrifice every other reality. The Lord, his friendship, his love, and eternal salvation are the treasure that no one can steal. There are those who give their life for a treasure and, today, Christ offers himself to us as the treasury of life: let us choose him.

The first is that the Kingdom requires a decisive and quick choice, like that of the man who immediately sells all his possessions, to buy the field with the treasure or the merchant who, without wasting time, sells everything he has to buy a pearl of exceptional value. The idea obviously is that when one really discovers Jesus and his vision of life everything else becomes secondary. In the service of the Kingdom there are no half measures and in that service there is a special kind of liberating joy. This was Paul’s experience: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8) and again “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 2:21). To have a personal relationship with Christ and to have made his view of life one’s own is the most beautiful, the most precious thing in the world. It is not enough, of course, just to say this; one must personally experience it as a fact – as many have done and many, unfortunately, have never really tried to do.

The second is that the choice, which implies a total detachment, springs from having found something of inestimable value. This is the true teaching of the parable. The reason that compels the disciple to leave everything is the joy of having found the treasure of life. The motive of joy is explicit in the parable of the man who buys the field: “Then he goes, full of joy, and sells all his belongings. “The Kingdom of God is demanding, but finding it has one hundred times value and eternal life.

The two parables describe two different kinds of people: the first tells us of a farmer who works a field that is not his; the second speaks to us about a merchant who is very rich. These two characters are the main characters only on the surface. The real protagonists are the treasure and the pearl that seduce the two men. The farmer and the merchant act because they are totally “grasped” by the treasure and the pearl they came across. If we recognize that the precious pearl or the invaluable treasure is Christ and His Kingdom, then we ought to make every effort to possess it.

In the first Christmas night the shepherds who were resting in the field with their sheep after the day long walk with the sheep, receives from the angels the Good News the whole world waited for years, like the man who went to work in the field finds the treasure. An invaluable treasure was waiting for the Samaritan woman who went to Jacob’s well to fetch water. Mathew who was sitting in the tax office and Peter who was in his boat also had the similar experiences.

But the learned kings who saw the star made tremendous effort, they leave the comforts of their palace and made long and tedious journey to reach Jesus. The devout and the righteous old man Simeon waited in the temple for years in prayer waiting for Jesus. Among the thousands of Children brought to the temple he searched for the Messiah and he found him and took him in his hands. Holding that precious treasure in his hands he said, Now let your servant depart in peace.(Lk. 2: 25-30). And the old woman Anna who did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer day and night, found the Messiah who was to redeem the Israel. For both of them it was a lifelong search. (LK 2: 36-38)

Some find the treasure unexpectedly and for some it is the fruit of their continuous search and effort. But in both cases the effect on them is same. The laborer who finds the hidden treasure and the merchant who finds the finest pearl sold everything they had and brought that. After finding the treasure or the pearl, to make it one’s own great sacrifices are to be made. Sacrifice is something very painful. Offering a lamb from among the thousand one has is not sacrifice, but offering one’s only child really is great sacrifice. That’s why Abraham became great.

For the invaluable treasure of attaining God and getting the vision of God what sacrifice am I doing? Life becomes meaningful when we find this treasure and make it our own. How many years Simeon and Anna lived on earth, but for them life became meaningful when they found the Messiah. We may find the invaluable God experiences unexpectedly through the incidents of life we think are accidental or we may find Him through our ardent search and prayer. In whatever way we find Him we must be ready to lose everything in order to possess the person of Christ, the most valuable treasure and the pearl of our life.