For the past two Sundays, we have reflected on the series of parables about the kingdom of God from Matthew 13. Today’s gospel features the final three parables with a concluding summary.
From the richness of our gospel reading, I want to focus on the two parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. The man who discovers the hidden treasure in the field readily sells all he has to buy the field. Likewise, the merchant who finds a pearl of exquisite value willingly sells all his pearls to acquire the exceptional jewel.
What is the hidden treasure or the pearl of great price? While there can be many interpretations to these parables, allow me to offer two possible applications.
The two parables are parables of the kingdom of God. Hence, the hidden treasure and the exceptional pearl refer to the kingdom of God itself. What is the kingdom of God? I often explain that the kingdom of God is not some place where God sits on a throne. The kingdom of God is where God is king, where he rules, where he is obeyed, and where his will is followed. Thus, in the Our Father, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
The kingdom of God then is the fulfilment of God’s will. Discovering the hidden treasure or finding the pearl of great price is about discerning the will of God and following it.
Pushing our reflection further, it can also be said that the kingdom of God is Christ himself, since Christ is the perfect fulfilment of the God’s will. His whole life was about fulfilling his Father’s will. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me…” (Jn 4:34) “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38)
In his celebrated book, “Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. I),” Pope Benedict XVI declares, “Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person. The Kingdom of God is present wherever he is present.” (p. 147). Thus, to discover the hidden treasure and to find the exceptional pearl is to discover Christ.
St. Paul speaks of the “excelling knowledge of Christ” beside which everything pales in comparison, and all else is but rubbish. (Ph 3:8) When one truly knows Christ, he sees everything in its true value and is ready to give up everything, for Christ demands nothing less. “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mk 10:21)
When the rich young man in Mark’s gospel hears these words, he goes away sad. He is not willing to give up his possessions to follow a stranger. He does not know Jesus. In contrast, the young man in today’s parable does not only sell all his property willingly but does so happily. He knows the true value of the field that holds a hidden treasure.
One more thing. When we give up everything for the Lord, he gives us himself along with all that we have given up. Solomon does not ask for wealth, long life, or power, but only a wise and understanding heart. In response, God gives him wisdom, and wealth, long life, and power, as well.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33)
I close with a story which I borrow from Fr. Michael McCabe, SMA.
One day God decided to launch a treasure hunt on earth. So he called his angels and gave them a priceless treasure to bring to earth, instructing them to hide it so that people would have to search for it and might have the joy of finding it. “Shall we hide it on the highest mountain”, the angels asked. “No”, answered God, “because only the fittest and healthiest could climb that mountain and the weak would have no chance”. Again, the angels asked: “Shall we put it on the farthest shores of the ocean”. “No”, answered God, “because only the rich people could afford to travel so far and the poor would have no chance”. “Where then shall we put it?” the angels asked. And God instructed: “Put it within reach of everybody, rich or poor, healthy or weak. Plant it in the center of their beings. Hide it in their hearts.”
“The kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk 17:21)*