The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds…Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant…When he finds a pearl of great price…
There is something idyllic in the parable Jesus tells about a person who just happens to find a treasure in a field, and out of a calculated “folly,” sells everything that he/she owns, in order to purchase the field, and thus take ownership of the treasure.
At the time of Jesus, and for the people of his time and place, the idea of gathering up one’s possessions and selling them might not have been very difficult because for most of the people who followed Jesus, their possessions might not add up to much when compared to our scale of possessions. Nothing “idyllic” about that.
Perhaps the “idyllic” is really in our contemporary hearing and interpreting the story because for many religious communities, this parable has served as a motivational story about the vocation to the religious life. We would have to give up not only possessions, but our claim to our will and our natural desire to find a marriageable mate.
Life eventually overtakes the idyllic dreams that may have brought us to religious life, and the cost of the sacrifice required to fulfill the calling to religious life becomes all too real. Over a period time, one either repeatedly commits to the invitation to “sell all” in order to follow Christ–the real treasure of the parable, or one chooses another way of life.
This summer, but throughout the year, there are other men and women, families and extended families, who find that they have given up all that they possess, but not of their own wills, and not in order to acquire the treasure in the field, or the pearl of great price. These are the families, couples, and individuals who lose “all they possess” after a tornado, a flood, a forest fire, or any of the other cataclysmic events that we read about daily in the newspapers. If you live in Chicago or other major cities, it can be the instant loss of a death caused by gunfire.
What does the parable say to us in this context. It says to me that Jesus gave up everything too. In finding himself crucified on the cross, he had put aside everything that a person can claim in this world. Naked and desolate on the cross, Jesus gave up everything so that we would know that we are not alone in enduring any loss, and that we might keep our eyes glued to the horizon of the resurrection.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo begin, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.