January 24, 2018, 3:39 am
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Our greatest treasure

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.”

***

The other name of King Solomon is wisdom. He is best remembered in Scripture for the wise decision he rendered in the dispute between two mothers who each claimed an infant to be her own. “Cut the living child in two and give each woman half of it.” The baby eventually went to the real mother who pleaded with the king to spare the infant from the sword. 

God had previously appeared to Solomon in a dream and gave him the privilege of asking any gift that the young monarch desired. God was so pleased with the young king of Israel because Solomon did not ask for a long life, nor for riches, nor for the death of his enemies. He asked rather for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Solomon began his reign on the right foot, so to speak, because he himself recognized the kingship of God over himself. 

Jesus teaches his disciples to desire God’s kingdom the way Solomon did. Using familiar images like a treasure buried in the field and the pearl of great price, Jesus points out how God’s kingdom is something freely given to us, yet at the same time it is something we must diligently search for. In both parables, Jesus stresses the joy that a person experiences after stumbling upon the buried treasure, or upon finding a most precious pearl. Suddenly, the person is willing to give up everything if only to possess the treasure or the pearl of great price.

Today as we celebrate Fil-Mission Sunday, we remember the Filipino diocesan priest-missionaries of the Mission Society of the Philippines (MSP). They are currently serving in five continents and twelve countries around the world. The MSP, established by the Catholic bishops of the Philippines in 1965, serves as the official and chief missionary arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. The MSP was conceived to be a “living memorial” of the Church’s gratitude to God for the invaluable gift of faith that the Philippine Church received from early missionaries.

Saint Paul, writing to the Romans, reminds us how all things work for good for those who love God. He speaks about God’s foreknowledge of us, and of our predestination, our call, our justification, and our glorification. In God’s heart and mind, he wants all of us to be with him. We are God’s greatest treasure.

Jesus uses the net to symbolize how God wishes to gather all men and women to himself. We all find life and sustenance in the Church as baptized followers. We grow, receive nourishment, and flourish within the Church. We find in the Church “both the new and the old”—the eternal Word of God, our sacred Tradition, writings by the Fathers of the Church, and the long history of a Church composed of men and women who rise, fall, and rise again with the help of God’s grace.

Solomon, whose kingship began under the lordship of God, started to waver when he forgot his first choice and biggest treasure. He had previously asked God for an understanding heart that could choose between right and wrong, but now his heart turned craven, surrounded as he was with fabulous wealth and the trappings of power. Solomon died after forty years in power, and God would eventually reduce his kingdom to one tribe. And yet from this remnant of a fallen kingdom, God would raise his greatest treasure: his only Son. This is God’s way of assuring us that even if we turn unfaithful, God remains faithful to his people.

***

– Fr. Paul J. Marquez, SSP
– (July 30, 2017)
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