In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks to us as He often does in the form of parables. "The kingdom of heaven," Christ tells us, "is like a treasure buried in a field." When such a treasure is found, the finder goes out and sells "all that he has" in order to buy the field. Imagine this for a moment-all that he has. This is not something you would do on a hunch. That would mean selling your house and everything in it, your car, your wedding ring, your stocks, your 401K, your kids’ toys, your clothes-everything. What could possibly be worth that? Certainly nothing on earth.
We could sell everything we have in exchange for finding the kingdom because no such thing on earth is as valuable. So what will we get in return for giving up all we have? The answer of course is that we will get everything we could ever need. What we have on earth pales in comparison to what is promised to us. How do we reconcile our daily lives filled with responsibilities and obligations with our commitment to put Christ first? In other words, how can we seek the treasure if we are not willing to pay the price for it?
I know the way it goes in my own life when such a conflict arises. I wonder, how can God ask so much of us when we have a debt crisis to worry about, college to save for, a mortgage to finance, a car to pay off, a career to nurture, a PTA meeting to plan and on and on. But when we live mindfully with God as the center of our lives, then all of those other things fall into place as they should. We become better parents and workers and all that we aspire to be.
The last parable in Matthew’s gospel today tells the story of the merchant searching for pearls. "When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Now, I am sure I have read or heard this gospel dozens of times. Since it follows the parable of the hidden treasure, it seems fitting that a similar story likens the kingdom to a fine pearl.
But I noticed something interesting this time. The kingdom is not actually compared to the pearl. "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls." The kingdom is actually directly compared to the merchant. I hope I am not undoing over a thousand years of Biblical study here. But it sounds to me like the kingdom is the one doing the seeking in this story. And if that is the case, could we be the pearls?
Let’s not forget that as we are out there seeking truth and re-arranging our priorities and trying to fit God into our schedule, that He gave all he had to save us. We are precious to Him. We are not out there alone searching for hidden treasure. In a world that defines us by our things and our earthly accomplishments, let us remember that we are so priceless to Christ that he traded his life for our salvation. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a priceless gem. And yet, that is what we are to our Lord. Let’s not let Him down.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.