Archive for the ‘Valuable Pearl’ Category

Travelers & Merchants — 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 30, 2014

Readings: 1st Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-46

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.

What do these two analogies or parables of Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God) have in common? Both tell about men who find something precious and sell everything they have to possess it. These short stories are quite similar, but how do they differ? (There must be some significance to these differences otherwise Jesus would not have given us both images.)

Jesus does not give us many details, but in my imagining the first story goes like this: A traveler is walking a dusty road that he has walked many times before, but this time, as he is looking to one side at nothing in particular, a golden glint catches his eye from the adjacent field. Out of curiosity, he investigates and discovers a wooden crate full of gold coins which has been uncovered by recent plowing. Putting the coins back inside and fixing the lid, he reburies the treasure and joyfully goes to sell all that he has in order to buy that field. “Why doesn’t he simply carry the crate away?” Because that would be stealing and true happiness cannot be obtained through wickedness. One does not come to possess the treasure of the Kingdom of God through evil means.

Pearl MerchantIn the second story, a pearl merchant comes upon a high-priced specimen in a marketplace. Its price is, let’s say, one hundred thousand dollars. Many people have admired it before, but the merchant has an expert and discerning eye. He sees that this pearl is worth ten times more and he shrewdly sells everything he owns to possess it. To onlookers, he looks crazy (“Selling everything for just one pearl?”) but he knows what he is about. Those who forsake all else to possess the Kingdom of Heaven may likewise be thought foolish by some, but the wise one recognizes the pearl’s true value.

Both the traveler and the merchant find precious treasure, but one difference between them is that the merchant knew what he was looking for and actively sought it, while the country traveler did not. Some people seek out the true, the good, the beautiful, the eternal things. They seek God himself, and those who seek, find. Others do not seek the higher things of God, yet our humble Lord has been known to blindside them with the truth of his reality and love. So what do these parables mean for us here, who have already come to know Jesus Christ and his Church?

An important aspect to finding and possessing your treasure in the Kingdom of God is knowing and embracing your vocation. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call.” Your vocation is your life’s calling from God. Your vocation is the means by which God intends for you to become holy and a blessing to all.

Some people find their vocation like the traveler on the road—stumbling upon it without having sought it. I think this is true for many marriages. A man and woman can be drawn to each other, fall in love and delight in each other, and decide to spend their lives together without discerning God’s purpose for their lives. Yet, since “we know that all things work for good for those who love God,” (as St. Paul says in our second reading) the Lord still guides them according to his purposes. If you are in the sacrament of marriage your vocation is clear: your mission in life is to become the best spouse and parent you can be and to help lead them to heaven. You need not travel to a mountaintop monastery in a distant land to find your vocation and become a saint. Your vocation, your means to holiness, is as ordinary and close as a field or marketplace, yet your treasure is found there. Your vocation is sitting beside you.

Other vocations are usually discovered only with discernment, by searching like the merchant. One does not become a priest, a religious, or a dedicated single person without a firm decision to offer one’s life entirely to God. These people also find sanctity and bless others in the greatest way through their God-given callings. If you have not yet discovered your vocation, remain close to God in prayer and faithfulness, and he will reveal his will to you.

In our first reading, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon, the new, young king, feels overwhelmed by his office. “I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Solomon’s request for wisdom to benefit the kingdom pleased the Lord, so God granted him great wisdom and all the gifts he had not asked for as well. As Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Pray to God for the wisdom to know your vocation and to embrace it (like the traveler and the merchant) with the investment of everything you are. In this way, you will come to possess the Kingdom’s precious treasure.

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Parables About Jesus — Monday, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 26, 2011

Jesus speaks of Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven) more times in the Gospel than perhaps anything else. But what is this kingdom? The Kingdom dwells among us when God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. The Kingdom reigns wherever the will of God is known and followed. His Kingdom is not equally present at all times and everywhere, which is why we pray for the kingdom to fully come, yet it can be present within a good community, in a loving family, or within a Christian’s soul.

Jesus leads us into the Kingdom of God. He teaches us how to live as kingdom people. There’s an interesting twist contained in Jesus’ teachings: whenever He speaks about the kingdom of God, He is usually teaching us something true about Himself. This is so, because Jesus is the kingdom incarnate. Wherever Jesus is, you find the Kingdom, and wherever the Kingdom is, Jesus is there.

Because of this close identification between Jesus and the Kingdom, we can substitute between these terms and reread Scripture with new eyes. For example, “In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea saying, ‘Repent, for (Jesus Christ) is at hand!’” The beatitude becomes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is (Jesus Christ).” One time, when Jesus sees how his disciples are shooing the little children away, He becomes indignant and says to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for (I) belong to such as these.” And we hear it said, “Seek ye first (Jesus Christ) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” When applied to today’s Gospel, Jesus three parables become revelatory of Jesus Himself.

Jesus is like a treasure buried in a field. This means that Jesus must be found. In the movie Forrest Gump, a down-in-the-dumps Lt. Dan Taylor asks Forrest derisively, “Have you found Jesus, Gump?” Forrest replies, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for Him, Sir.” If I ask you if you’ve found Jesus you might feel like a bit Forrest; you’re baptized, you’re here at church, how could you still need to find him?

Well, think of it this way: do you have a joy and excitement in your relationship with Christ anything like a man who finds a hidden treasure? Does you life feel rich and full of opportunity because you know Him? If not, then you have not yet found Him like He wants you too. We need to seek after Him in prayer and learning. Encounter Him in the Gospels, especially if you never have before. (Do you want to reach the end of your days without ever having read the Gospels?) Jesus is a rich treasure whom we must seek out and discover.

The second parable: Jesus is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. (Notice that Jesus was first the treasure, now He’s the searcher.) This means that Jesus searches after us. We should not despair. He pursues more passionately than a man searching a profit. Jesus seeks us as a man in love. A pearl may get dirty and think it is no longer desirable, but Jesus has the solution for cleansing pearls. He emptied Himself of glory to become man for us, and then he gave everything He had to die as a man for us. Do not forget that if we were the only sinner on earth He would have still come for you. Never despair. Jesus will always pursue you like a man in love.

In the third and final parable, Jesus is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. This means that Jesus confronts us all. As Simenon foretold of The baby Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Hi to the temple, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The truth of Jesus Christ confronts all people, even if they’ve never heard the name of Jesus. But we have heard His name, and we must not put off responding to Him forever.

Jesus is the treasure we must seek. We must not despair, for Jesus relentlessly seeks after us. Jesus is the net who confronts us all, so we must not put Him off forever.

November 11 – Veterans Day

November 11, 2009

Pearl Merchant

In the Gospel today, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as being like a treasure buried in a dirt field, or like a ridiculously underpriced pearl in a market place. These are valuable things that take great personal sacrifice to obtain. Jesus’ lesson in this for us is that a wise person should be willing to trade away everything else they have, and do it joyfully, because of the desirability of what’s before them. So it is with the Kingdom of God.

But these parables are not only about us, and how we should go after God’s kingdom. They also tell about how God has sought after for us for His kingdom. The Lord saw us as the treasure buried in a field, the field being the world. He was like the pearl merchant, who saw us as a precious pearl whose great worth was unrealized by others. And out of love for us one could say that He joyfully sold everything that He had to possess us.

“For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again,” ‘giving us a new birth to a living hope through His resurrection.’ Through Christ’s poverty, He made us rich, giving us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us].”

Whenever something is truly valuable, it is worth one’s great personal sacrifice to possess it and to protect it. Today we are honoring those men and women who have done just that; who have made great personal sacrifices to serve our country in the military. Today is Veterans’ Day. While we would be mistaken to identify our country as being the kingdom of God, it would also be a mistake to dismiss the good our country and its veterans have done around the world.

We can we be so proud of our country’s veterans because they are true soldiers. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” This is reflected in how we have treated those we have defeated. We forgive them, rebuild them, and let them have their freedom. We may need to fight some enemies, now and in the future, but we have no need to hate them. Our power is not in our hatred, but our love. In this we follow our model, Jesus Christ, who loved the world so much that sacrificed everything He had for it. And let us remember that He conquered the whole world for us without firing a single shot.