Matthew’s Gospel presents a number of the parable Jesus told in an effort to help his followers understand what he meant in talking about the kingdom of God. Today’s Gospel reading presents two of those:
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.
I find it interesting that in the first of the two parables, the kingdom is like the treasure, not the person who finds it, whereas in the second, the kingdom is not like the pearl, but like the merchant searching for it.
It is also interesting that in the hidden treasure parable, Jesus is not saying that there is only one field, or that only one person will find the treasure and everyone else will be left out – although that is how we might think of it.
Louis Savary discusses these parables in his book, The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Teilhard de Chardin. He suggests that we ought ask ourselves: Why does the person buy the whole field? And what might the whole field symbolize? With respect to the second parable, he asks, If you were a merchant searching, what would that feel like? If Christ were the merchant searching, what might he be searching for?
When I prayed with these two parables during a recent summer retreat, I had a series of somewhat related thoughts and questions:
In the past, I always thought of the treasure as a small thing in the middle of a big field. But as I prayed with it this time, I saw the treasure as an underlying layer of the entire field – as hidden by the dirt on top. So not something discreet and limited, but expansive.
More importantly, we discover/find the Kingdom and then become part of the kingdom in our sharing. So we are both finder of the treasure and the treasure. While God is the source of the Kingdom and the source of us, somehow in all of this – we are an intrinsic, essential part of the spreading of kingdom.
A daunting, but empowering, thought.