On the Gospel of Matthew 13:44-52
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
The first thing that struck me when reading this Gospel was the first paragraph. Jesus tells the crowd that the “Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field”. The surprising fact is that the person hides the treasure again and, then, sells everything and buys the field before taking possession of it. I think the inclination of most would be to take the treasure, and to think to themselves that it is ‘the finder’s keep’, maybe not even considering that it belongs to the owner of the field.
The contrast, I think, is not as stark with the second parable where the merchant finds a fine pearl and sells everything in order to buy it. Obviously, it is not right to rob somebody’s pearl who clearly has it in his physical possession! But the small difference, as I perceive it, is a huge difference when applied to our journey towards God.
The psalm has as response ‘Lord, how I love your law’ (Ps 118), and it is God’s law which is written on our heart. The closer we are to God, the clearer right and wrong become to us and the more sensitive we become to the subtle nuances separating the two. When we are closer to God it seems obvious that taking the treasure in the first parable is as bad as it would be bad to rob the pearl in the second parable, but when we distance ourselves from God the contrast between the two becomes much more blurred.
It is therefore important to strive towards a deeper penetration of God’s law in our lives, a deeper understanding which will lead us to true freedom. We need to reflect daily on our behaviour and examine our conscience to see in what way we have failed to act as God would like us to have acted in a certain situation, the question being whether we acted out of love. It is therefore also important to regularly go to confession and ask for God’s forgiveness and grace to become a better person.
We need to follow Solomon’s example, in the first reading, who asks for a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil. If we do the same, God will, as with Solomon, be pleased with us, as long as we are not looking for riches or a long life for our own apparent temporal pleasure, but we look forward to and strive for eternal happiness with God.
The kingdom of God is indeed like a treasure, and it is worth selling everything to obtain it. Discovering this is like the awe which overcomes us when, for example, we encounter the beauty of nature, when having an encounter with God as the person in the first parable, when we find the treasure of the Truth, have a complete conversion of heart, being prepared to sell everything in order to never let go of the encounter of love, which the encounter of God is.