17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – A
Matthew 13: 44-52
Aside from the primal instinct of survival, all of us have the longing to attain what we perceive to be good. Depending on one's circumstances, goodness presents itself in many different forms. It is always the driving force that defines why and how we live our lives. It determines our value system and our day to day choices. Without this goodness, life will be doomed to decadence and will never reach its full realisation.
In the parable this Sunday, goodness is symbolised by the treasure hidden in a field which a man discovers, sells everything he has and buys the field. It is the same with the pearl of great price discovered by a merchant, sells everything and buys the pearl.
To us Christians, the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price is Jesus Christ. It is hidden because it is a gift lying in the depths of our hearts under the veil of faith. After the apostolic times, all those who embraced the Christian faith, which include us, had never experienced Jesus in the flesh. We simply rely on the faith which has been handed down to us through the Oral Tradition, the Scriptures and the Teachings of the Church. The paradox of divine revelation is the inability of the human mind to grasp the inexhaustible reality of God even if He continues to burst Himself generously to us. The hiddenness of God is not because He does not want to reveal Himself fully to us but because of our inability to contain such magnitude of wisdom which is beyond measure. Because it is hidden in the eyes of the world, those who do not have faith might judge the believers as somewhat weird, funny, irrational and even out of their mind.
Those who do not know the hidden treasure buried in the field nor understand the true value of the pearl of great price might be laughing at the top of their voice: “why would somebody sell everything just to buy the field or the pearl?” The treasure of the Kingdom of God can only be appreciated and acknowledged by the heart which sees beyond what the eyes can perceive. This is shown to us in the lives of the saints who saw beyond what was perceived by their senses. That is why in the eyes of the world, they may look like crazy and foolish. If Christ has already paid the price of the treasure being offered to us through his life and death so what's the point of selling everything in order for us to own it? It is because the price paid by Jesus was just the "down payment" and his believers have to pay the subsequent payment which is our personal participation towards the full possession of the treasure. "To sell everything" can be of different contexts to each one of us depending on the mission entrusted to us. To the Apostles, it means leaving their boats and families behind; to some, it means leaving loved ones and homelands; to others it means giving up possessions and careers; to many of us, it can be the big or small sacrifices being asked of us every now and then. But why do we have to give up these things? It is because nothing in this world should hinder us in acquiring the Highest Good and no person should be an obstacle in possessing the Absolute. When God gives it as a free gift, we also have to give something of our selves so that our human generosity is matched by divine magnanimity. It is good to ask ourselves every now and then: "What have I given up for God?" "Up to what extent of myself am I willing to give up to possess the true treasure?"
The third element in the parable is the joy of possessing the treasure. Sometimes we give so much attention to the pain of losing, of giving up, of sacrificing without realising the joy of possessing the reward of such self-effacement. Because God is the Highest and the Absolute Good, nothing can equal the value and joy of possessing Him or maybe to say more correctly, of being possessed by Him. To possess God or being possessed by Him is far more precious than all the combined worldly treasures and the rarest pearls in the world.