Gospel – 13: 44-52
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
My brothers and sisters in the Lord!
In March of 1848, the people of San Francisco were taken by surprise when a newspaper vendor started shouting. “ GOLD! GOLD!” the discovery of Gold in California became a Gold Rush, but not immediately. These were the days before air travel. And it took four or five months to get from the east coast to the Wild West, whether you went by ship around the tip of South America; by mule through the jungle of Panama or by wagon across the prairies. But by the following year , gold diggers were arriving in great numbers; these were the so-called “forty-niners”.
Hundreds of thousands left their jobs, homes and families in Europe, China and other places in America in the hope of getting rich. Many died on the journey, others in mining accidents or even in violent disputes. There was no law enforcement, anyone could stake a claim to land, only to have it grabbed from them as soon as they struck some luck. There was lots of greed and savage competition which reduced human life to its most primitive. Many early gold diggers made thousands of dollars, but lucky strikes became less common as time went on. The Forty-niners had to endure all the hardships of the trail, whether it be life in a shack, grinding toil, the company of gamblers, crooks and gunslingers and with no certainty of finding that gold they were looking for. And yet they were prepared to give up everything they held dear in the dream of getting rich.
Gold rush towns were full of lawless, and reckless people , not the king you would expect to find in God’s kingdom, you might think. However in today’s Gospel we hear a parable about shady dealings following the discovery of gold, and Jesus is not talking about California, but rather the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says, imagine a man finding buried treasure in a field, then what does he do? He sells everything to buy the field. The treasure must have been worth having , if the man was willing to give up everything he owned, but it does sound unethical to keep quiet about the true value of a piece of land in order to secure its purchase. We might ask ourselves can Jesus really be saying that God would welcome such an unscrupulous person into his kingdom? He is exaggerating to make a point, perhaps but the message is clear. It is not respectability that will get us into heaven , but rather how much we desire to be there.
Jesus’ description of the kingdom overturned expectations. Religious leaders like the Pharisees thought that only pious people deserved the reward of God’ friendship. They didn’t think of God’s mercy, nor the deep longing of sinful people for the chance to turn their lives around. Such are the people that God desires, those that is , who truly desire God in their lives and especially those for whom God’s friendship matters more than anything else.
In today’s responsorial psalm , the psalmist said today that God’s law “means more to me than silver and gold.” WE might ask ourselves; “how true is that for us? When Solomon was granted a wish, he did not choose wealth or health or popularity. Some people, however, are preoccupied with those things. Their heart is set on making money, improving their looks or prolonging their years.
Faith may be what many of us hold dear; knowing that heaven is waiting for us when we die. Faith, however, is more than investing in a comfortable afterlife. When Jesus was describing the kingdom of heaven, he was also talking about the enrichment of our lives in the here and now. Every morning and evening it is the Jewish tradition to recite the commandment: “You shall love the Lord our God with all your heart and soul”. That is what Jesus meant by selling “everything” God’s kingdom is about wholehearted commitment and by making daily choices that will be pleasing to God as well as to do what God asks of us. Jesus is urging us today to let God reign over us if we wish to find true happiness.
Treasure is not found lying on the surface. Superficial things as gold and silver or celebrity status are never worth as much as people think. Many “forty-niners“ gave up everything to search for gold, and only found disappointment. It is the same today, some people spend their whole lives chasing dreams. The most valuable treasures are buried deep. If our life with God does not seem important right now as money or appearance or popularity, then Jesus challenges us to rethink our priorities. His words are quite clear: “set your hearts on God’s kingdom first, and then every other good thing will be added to you.