Christ the King Catholic Church
In Matthew's Gospel today, Jesus continues to teach us using parables. The word 'parable' comes from a Greek word which means 'comparison'. Jesus uses things with which we are all familiar to teach us about things of which we are not so familiar. More often than not, Jesus uses parables to teach us about the Kingdom of God. As we hear in today's Gospel, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like ... "
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that is buried in a field. The people of Jesus' day would have been more familiar with this example than those of us who are thousands of years removed from the life in first century Palestine.
In the ancient world there were no banks or safety deposit boxes. Ordinary people buried cherished possessions in the ground. If you had something valuable, you buried it. When Jesus told the parable of the servants who were give different amounts of money, the one servant buried his money in the ground to keep it safe until his master returned. He was following the conventional wisdom of the day. A rabbinic saying of the time taught that the only safe place to keep money was in the earth.
In addition, Palestine lies in the Fertile Crescent which, in ancient times, was the most fought over piece of real estate in the world. When war would come, as it often did, people would bury their treasures in their gardens before escaping the war with the hope of returning one day to retrieve them. Even in the last century, archaeologists were unearthing copper pots full of gold coins that date back to the time of Alexander the Great - centuries before Christ.
Treasures were buried in the ground.
So, the man in today's parable was in search of treasure. It was what he did for a living. It was hard work because people didn't bury their treasures just under the surface of the earth. Treasures were buried deep in the ground. When this man discovers one of those copper pots filled with gold coins, he sacrifices everything to buy that field so that he can possess that treasure.
The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus tells us, is like finding a great treasure buried in a field. We don't just stumble upon the Kingdom, as ifby chance. The man in the parable went in search of treasure. It was his life's work. So, too, we have to search for the Kingdom. We have to be invested in the search. We have to be single-minded in the search. It has to be our priority in life. And we have Jesus' assurance, "Seek and you will find."
In Matthew's Gospel the Kingdom of God breaks into our world in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the treasure that we should spend our lives seeking. Whoever finds Jesus, finds a treasure, an eternal treasure. Where do we 'find' Jesus? Jesus is a person, not an idea or an abstraction. He is a living person. We meet him in conversation, which we call prayer. How fortunate we are to have the Adoration Chapel open 24-7, here at Christ the King. We meet Jesus in prayer.
A few weeks ago, a man was delivering books to the school. After unloading the books, he told me he wanted to buy a bible and asked me what version would be a good choice. He then explained that his wife had recently died, and he was in search of meaning. He was searching for something more in life. I saw him a few weeks later, and he told me that had just read the entire Gospel of Saint Luke. He had met Jesus in Luke's Gospel and he was excited about what he had found. It made me think of Saint Jerome's famous saying, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." We meet Jesus in the scriptures.
If we look, we find Jesus in the events of our lives and the events of history. In these days in which we see yard signs with slogans of all kinds throughout the city, I think of the yard sign that would answer all the issues of our day. Didn't the Master teach us, "Do unto others as you would them do unto you?" In the Golden Rule that Jesus taught and lived, Jesus has given us a key to the Kingdom. I would love to see that yard sign spread throughout the city.
The sacraments of the Church are by very definition 'meeting places' with Jesus. If we search in faith for Jesus in the sacraments, we find him there.
We search for many things in life: popularity, wealth, comfort, prestige, and security. Jesus is the treasure for which it is worth searching. It is a search in which it is worth investing our lives. The man in today's parable gave his life to
the search for treasure in a field. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like that...
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds the one of great value, he sells everything in order to have it. It is the most important thing in his life. We sacrifice for the things that are truly important to us. We give our time to the things that really matter to us. The Kingdom of God is something for which it is worth sacrificing for. What am I willing to sacrifice for and what do I sacrifice for? Where and how we spend our time tells us where our treasure is. If I look at how I spend my time in a typical week, what does it say about the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven in my life? When the man in the parable finds the pearl of great price, he sacrifices everything in order to possess it. The Kingdom of Heaven is like that.
Or the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet. Jesus speaks to fishermen using examples from their daily life. The dragnet was a common way of fishing in the Palestine of Jesus' day. The boat pulled a giant net behind it that caught everything in its path. On the shore the fishermen would separate what was valuable from what was not.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like that dragnet.. All are invited to the Kingdom, but when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of Heaven is fully established among us, some will be fit for the kingdom and some will not.
Our lives on earth have a purpose. Our life's work is to search for true treasure, for what really matters. Once we find it, we must be ready to sacrifice everything in order to possess that treasure. Our short time on earth is a time to prepare for the Kingdom that Jesus promised us is coming. He taught us to pray for the coming of this Kingdom. We live our lives here on earth in such a way, here and now, that we will be fit for the Kingdom when it comes. We do this by doing things like, "Doing to others as we would have them do to us."
In today's first reading, the wise King Solomon began his service as Israel's king by asking God for the wisdom to rule God's people well. He could have asked God for anything, but he asked for the wisdom to be a good king.
As we begin this new week, let us pray for the wisdom to know what is truly important in life and, in all things, to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.