In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven as something really precious, like a buried treasure or very valuable pearl. How many of us as children fantasized about finding that buried treasure? How many of us actually started digging? Apparently it’s not such a new fantasy. The childhood fantasies of “striking it rich” have now become adult fantasies drawing people by the thousands to the casinos. If only we would put as much effort into obtaining the treasure that lasts forever: the kingdom of heaven. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) The young King Solomon in today’s First Reading realized this instinctively when he asked God for what he would need to be a good king, rather than for selfish rewards. God was so pleased with King Solomon’s sincere dedication to being a good servant of God and servant of the citizenry that he was generous in granting him the spiritual gifts he requested and material prosperity besides. Unfortunately King Solomon’s material prosperity would eventually lead to his downfall. The lesson for us: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Pope Francis reflected on today’s Gospel parables in his Angelus message on July 30, 2017. Some of his reflection follows.
These parallel stories highlight two characteristics regarding possession of the Kingdom of God: searching and sacrifice. It is true that the Kingdom of God is offered to all—it is a gift, it is a present, it is a grace—but it does not come on a silver platter: it requires dynamism; it is about searching, journeying, working hard. The attitude of searching is the essential condition for finding. The heart must burn with the desire to reach the valuable good, that is, the Kingdom of God which is made present in the person of Jesus. He is the hidden treasure; he is the pearl of great value. He is the fundamental discovery who can make a decisive change in our lives, filling it with meaning.
Faced with the unexpected discovery, both the farmer and the merchant realize that they are facing a unique opportunity which should not be missed; hence, they sell all that they own. Assessing the inestimable value of the treasure leads to a decision that also implies sacrifice, detachment and renunciation. When the treasure and the pearl are discovered, that is, when we have found the Lord, we must not let this discovery become barren, but rather sacrifice everything else in order to acquire it. It is not a question of disdaining the rest but of subordinating them to Jesus, putting him in first place; grace in first place. The disciple of Christ is not one who has deprived himself of something essential; he is one who has found much more: he has found the complete joy that only the Lord can give. It is the evangelical joy of the sick who have been healed; of the pardoned sinners, of the thief for whom the doors of heaven open.
Pray the rosary again this week for our country, for people affected by the corona virus and all who care for them, and for all affected by anger and violence. Pray for good weather for the growing season and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.