This morning’s Gospel reading is Matthew 13:44–52:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
E-Bay’s been around for a while, but I only took notice of it when I decided to replace my old digital SLR camera with a model that had more capabilities. I began looking at normal retail outlets for sales, but a friend in that industry suggested I try e-Bay. I hadn’t known that sellers offer new equipment there as well as used, and quickly found a very good deal on the specific camera I wanted.
Ever since, I’ve been in and out of e-Bay to check prices on items that interest me. I’ve bought a couple of them — including a recent purchase of a usually pricy 8mm videotape player I needed to convert old family movies, which I got for about a quarter of the price of a new model. I do the same with other online retail platforms and brick-and-mortar websites, but fortunately I manage to mostly restrain myself from buying everything that catches my eye or that I think I “need” for one reason or another. Even when the price seems relatively cheap, I ask myself two questions — do I really need this, or just want it, and Is this the best investment of my assets at the moment? Usually the answer is ‘no,’ but even then the temptation is strong to spend the money anyway.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a parable of finding and valuing a treasure, whether it’s buried in a field or a highly valuable pearl in a body of water. What does the farmer or merchant do when they find this treasure? Jesus explains that they sell all they have in order to possess it for themselves. They have to make a choice with life-changing outcomes. Either they ignore the treasure and hold onto their life as they had it before, or they fully commit to owning the treasure and risk all to possess it — all of the security and certainty they thought they had built for themselves.
First, though, they have to have the wisdom to make that choice and to recognize the treasure when they see it. To see the treasure of salvation, one has to have some preparation to put it in proper context. Otherwise, we might decide that it’s not worth upending our lives to possess, or we might sell out for something other than salvation, having been fooled by temptation into embracing the futile.
Today’s first reading from 1 Kings speaks to the need to seek wisdom from the Lord in order to open ourselves to His Word. The Lord comes to Solomon and invites the young king to ask for what he desires most. Rather than treasure or power, Solomon asks for wisdom so that he may serve God best, and govern Israel properly. That in itself demonstrated a kind of wisdom, but a wisdom borne of humility and introspection. Many of us would be sorely tempted to tell the Lord, “I really need lots and lots of gold and jewels, and then I’ll make sure I donate some of them to worthy causes,” or “Make my enemies suffer and I’ll make daily offerings to you forever!” These days, maybe we’d ask to win the Powerball or to get a really good price on that electronic gadget on e-Bay.
Solomon instead chooses wisdom, and from that wisdom many other blessings follow. Solomon understood that the Lord called him to serve, and that the path to the Lord was through that service, and so he chose to completely invest himself in that mission. He did not need riches or the suffering of enemies to carry it out; he just needed the Lord. As Paul writes to the Romans in today’s second reading, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called to His purpose.” But first we must have the wisdom to recognize that call, and then to invest ourselves in it fully for His will to be done.
In the first two parables Jesus tells in today’s Gospel, we get lessons on how we are to recognize salvation and the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of great price, and to fully commit ourselves to it. The third parable reverses the dynamic, however, and speaks to God’s investment in us. In the third parable, the seeker of treasure is not us but the Lord, who uses His angels to sweep us all into His nets. He will not miss a single treasure, Jesus promises us. What is good will be kept, while what is evil will be cast aside. All of that effort will be expended to ensure that not one good soul will be left buried in a field.
This is the greatest news of all: we are the Lord’s treasure, His children, whom He calls home to share in His inheritance. And like any good father or even a treasure hunter or merchant, He will go to the ends of the earth to bring His treasures home. The Lord invests Himself fully in us out of love, allowing us to choose whether we live as His children and recognize the value of that love.
That’s not a deal you’ll get on e-Bay. You don’t need to bid for it, because it is freely given and received. All any of us need to do is decide where we invest our greatest and most valuable asset to the Lord — our hearts.
“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here. For previous Green Room entries, click here.