17th Sunday A. July 24th
Going off Happy
Jesus said to the crowds: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.
In your life up to now what is the treasure you have discovered? You may need a little time to think about this before you answer. Don’t be too quick to say that you have found no treasure.
You may think first of the possessions you treasure: your home, your garden, your savings; smaller precious things like your wedding ring; mementos like letters and photos you have kept for many years; a clock or a radio which serves you every day.
But the things we treasure are usually not our greatest treasures. Our greatest treasures may be the people who are dearest to us: a husband or wife, a daughter or son, a parent or grand-parent or a close friend. Young people in love know the delight of having found a treasure; an elderly couple celebrating their golden jubilee may recognize the same treasure in a quieter and maybe deeper way.
For others their treasure may be their life’s work, or it could be an organization to which they have dedicated a lot of their lives. And for many, their treasure is God: their faith in the Lord and their relationship with him.
Finding the treasure
Jesus draws our attention to three moments in our relationship with any treasure. The first moment is when we find it. As you think of the treasure in your life, you may remember the moment you found it; or it may have been in your possession for a time before you recognized that it was a treasure.
The second moment is one of joy and happiness at having made the discovery. I am reminded of a man I know who loves to tell the story of how he met his Portuguese wife on a visit to Lisbon many years ago. The third moment follows closely on the second: it is the ready willingness to make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to have the treasure. In the story Jesus told, the man who found the treasure buried in a field went off happy, and sold everything he owned in order to buy the field. You may remember the sacrifices you have gladly made to gain your treasure.
The late Cardinal Basil Hume was loved and respected as a holy and caring person. At his funeral, the preacher described what a good man he was and said that he was a gift to all who had dealings with him; he concluded, ‘If the gift was like that, what must God be like, the giver of that gift?’ As we remember the treasures we have discovered and the joy they have brought us, we may wonder what God, who is the greatest treasure may be like, and how happy we will be to enjoy that treasure.
St. Augustine gave a lot of thought to Jesus’ story of the man who sold everything to buy the pearl of great value. He says that the man looking for the pearl is like some one looking for good people to live with, and finally discovers Jesus. And he is like a person looking for wise commandments to live by, and he discovers the greatest commandment that contains all the others: Love your neighbour as yourself. Then Augustine leaves us to ponder this last point: each one of us is the precious pearl, but we are not free to possess that pearl ‘unless we despise all the things that can be possessed in this world.’ That is not to undervalue the good things of this world, but it reminds us that the day will come when we must leave them behind. Our hope is that in the next world we will be given possession of our good God and of our own true selves. Then we will have we will have the treasure that was hidden and the pearl of great price.
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you;
so lead us by your Spirit
that in this life we may live to your glory
and in the life to come enjoy you for ever. Amen