The Parables of the Treasure hidden in a field and the Pearl of great price which begin the Gospel reading break the natural flow of ideas from the allegory of the parable of the wheat and weeds, which are continued in the Parable of the Net. Though the word “treasure” at the beginning of today’s text (13:44) and again at the end of it (13:52) is an indication that all these verses form one unit, this homily will focus on the first two parables of today’s reading. These parables are found only in Gospel of Matthew and the first point that strikes one is the brevity of the parables. They do not give too many details and one must avoid the danger of filling in details which are not in the parables.
Both parables centre on one point, namely that the main character in the parable sells everything that he has for the sake of what he wants. They each act with single-mindedness. However, even as the one working in the field does not seem to be looking for something specific, the merchant is specifically searching for fine pearls. Though questions may be raised about the legality, integrity and honesty of the one working in the field or about the prudence of the decision of the merchant, these do not seem to have any connection with the main point. The parables pronounce no judgement on the ethics or commonsense of the characters, but stress that the coming of the kingdom requires radical decisions. An important point that must be noted here is that the decisions of the individuals to do what they did, come AFTER the discovery is made. This means that it is the discovery which prompts the decision. In other words, they could not but do what they did. The discovery compels their action.
The discovery that wisdom was indeed that treasure led Solomon to forgo all that a “sensible” person might have considered important and even necessary. As a young king he had many legitimate needs. He needed wealth, military might, fame, security, prosperity, long life and happiness and yet he knew that these were not the real treasure, these were not the pearl of great price. In the first reading of today in which he responds to God’s generosity to him by asking for the gift of wisdom or a discerning mind indicates that he too had discovered the treasure and pearl.
Thus it may be said that the kingdom of God is not really a place but a state of being. The treasure and pearl of great price are not things that one possesses, rather it is something that possesses or grasps us. It is what leads us to let go of everything else that we might possess and focus on it alone. It is that good which contains in itself or brings along with it all other good and desirable things, that which completely satisfies the otherwise insatiable desires of the human heart. The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. The one who finds the kingdom of God finds everything desirable besides. That is why it is compared to hidden treasure in a field which a man finds, then goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Or a precious pearl which a merchant finds, then goes and sells everything he has and buys this one pearl. In fact, these parables invite us not only to seek first the kingdom of God but to seek only the kingdom because with the kingdom of God comes every other good thing that we desire and long for.
Paul gives us a good picture of the kingdom in today’s second reading. It is the kingdom when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God. This is being done by God himself who will cooperate with them. It is the kingdom when seekers will receive his justification and share his glory. The kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. It is the realization that one is loved unconditionally and that nothing that one does no matter how despicable will ever stop that love from flowing into one’s heart.