I Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
Dear friends! Little Mary listened intently in Sunday school while the teacher explained the parable of the “treasure” and “pearl” and gave a detailed description of eternal bliss in Heaven. She concluded her class asking the question, “All those who are ready to go to Heaven, raise your hands.” Every hand went up except one. “Why, don’t you want to go to Heaven, Mary?” asked the teacher. “Well,” Mary replied, “Mom was baking apple pie when I left home!”
Jesus continues his teaching on the “kingdom of heaven” using little stories based on the experiences of rural Galileans. The parable of the treasure hunter: Frequent battles and foreign invasions encouraged the people of Palestine to bury their treasures like money and jewelry in their fields. For example, the great religious treasure – the Dead Sea Scrolls – discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947 was hidden there over 2,000 years ago. Sometimes unclaimed and forgotten, the treasures awaited some lucky finder. Jesus tells the story of one such lucky treasure finder who sold everything he had in order to get ownership of the field. According to the Palestinian laws of that time, the mere finding of buried treasure did not entitle the finder to possession unless he also owned the property. In the parable of the treasure in the field and in the parable of the merchant who sought fine pearls, we see the image of one who recognizes the value of the kingdom of God and gives everything to possess it. Matthew, a tax-collector, might have experienced something like this when he discovered the eternal value of the kingdom preached by Jesus of Nazareth.
The parable of the pearl hunter: A well-to-do merchant on the lookout for quality pearls finds a very precious pearl and immediately “sells everything” to buy it. Jesus wants us to know that the kingdom of God is worth all we have. He has come to offer us God’s Kingdom, a unique pearl of the greatest price. The genuine disciples are those who respond to this opportunity with joy and selfless commitment, eagerly giving top priority to life in the Kingdom by doing God’s will, whatever it may be. This parable teaches us that, although we are baptized Christians, we still need to pursue the true and full meaning of the Gospel which can escape us for many years. We always need to understand more, to love more, and to serve more. The first and second parables also remind us that the most precious things in life are to know God and to live according to the Gospel.
The parable of the fishing net: In Palestine there were two main ways of fishing. The first was with the casting-net, which required a keen eye and great skill in throwing the net at the correct moment. The second was with a drag-net, as it is sometimes called. Galilean drag-nets were tied to two boats and drawn through the water. The catch was sorted only afterwards, with edible or kosher fish going to market and the unacceptable fish being thrown away. Just as a drag net collects good and bad fish indiscriminately, so the Church is a mixture of all kinds of people, good and bad, useless and useful. This parable encourages the church to adopt an open approach to evangelism. The parable also teaches that a time of separation will come when the good and the bad will be sent to their respective destinies. This parable pictures this separation as happening in the final judgment. This parable is thus a counterpart to the parable of the weeds and the wheat.
The teaching: What the parables really teach us is that, when one discovers Jesus and his vision of life, everything else becomes secondary. That is what St. Paul meant when he said: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8) To have a personal experience of Christ and personal relationship with Him – in other words, to have made his view of life one’s own – is the most precious thing in the world.
We should live every moment in view of our precious goal. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status or pleasure. Often we are locked into regrets over the past, or focused too much on the future. As a result, the enriching present passes us by, and the treasure is never discovered. Thus, the really valuable pearl of sharing in God’s life here on earth and later in heaven is never found. Let us always remember that heaven is within the reach of all who follow the ordinary vocations of life and partake of this world’s joys and pleasures within the framework of God’s commandments. Right now, it is for us to use the time given to us to go in search of the pearl of great price and to help others in their search. We are challenged to search and discern where the Lord is calling us so that we may know what path to take. Let us remember that whenever we fight against discrimination, whenever we trust completely in God, whenever our selflessness conquers selfishness, whenever our love overcomes sin and our faith overcomes suffering, whenever we render humble service to others, we are doing the will of God as it is done in heaven and hence we are already in the kingdom of heaven while we are still on earth.