In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 13: 44-46) our Lord gives us two short, beautiful parables about what “The Kingdom of Heaven is like .” He first tells us the story of a “person” who finds this treasure in a field, hides it again, and gives everything he/she has in order to buy that field.
Who is this person? What is this treasure? Why buy the whole field? Is the treasure too big to walk away with? Then there is the story of the merchant who also gives up everything he has to be able to buy this “pearl of great value” (or “price”).
I used to think of both parables as exhortations to give up all our worldly “possessions” in order to deserve the right to enter the Kingdom of God, and the salvation that it offers. I still think that this is the primary meaning of these stories, and it is indeed important and beautiful. However, over the years, I have wondered whether these parables also invite us to consider the Heart of this Master of the Kingdom. How does this King feel about us? Here are three little stories that have always moved me. I hold them like treasures in my own heart. In a way, they remind me of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ:
C.S. Lewis has this wonderful image of the Diver, who stands naked, divested of everything He had, at the brink of a high cliff. He opens out his arms, and dives headlong into the dark, violent sea below. He enters the freezing water and pushes mightily toward the even-colder bottom, past mud and filth, until He snatches the object that He was looking for out of the thick muck. He swims back up, but it is too late. He is out of air, He is about to die. But somehow He rises up full of life! He reaches the surface and opens His hand toward heaven to offer the prize He has rescued. It is the Pearl of Great Value: you and me, humanity, all of Creation.
Armando Guerra (in English it means “making war!”) is truly a soldier of God. He preaches these great talks at our Emmaus Men’s Retreats in Miami, FL. He likes to tell us that a “pearl of great value” is the product of great pain. As many of us learned In grade school the oyster winds up with a grain of sand or a small rock stuck within its shell, irritating its soft body. The oyster covers this painful object with a smooth, shiny substance called nacar, or mother-of-pearl. This only makes the object larger and torments the animal even more. The smooth rounded object grows and grows as this agonizing process keeps on repeating itself until the oyster dies. Yet, when the shell is opened up, a beautiful, valuable pearl is found inside. How can so much beauty come from so much suffering? Thank You Beloved Jesus, savior, crucified and risen! May we suffer with You in hope and trust, even joy.
The last story. Sometimes, at the end of a painful talk about self-knowledge, Armando passes around this box that looks a lot like a souvenir treasure chest (maybe he got it at Disney World), and he reads for us the parable of the treasure in the field. He has us consider that the “person” in the parable is God. He has buried this treasure in the field of His heart. He has given everything He has, even His life for it. What’s inside this “treasure chest” ? He lets us look within, one-by-one. Armando has cleverly cut and pasted a mirror at the bottom of the box. When you look inside the treasure chest, you see yourself. It seems this Kingdom of God is a Reign that is primarily ruled by the infinite power of Love. Thank You Father !