By Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
It is abundantly clear that Jesus did not work for Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica. If you want straight-forward information, or as Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am,” you would not want to ask Jesus. Jesus is more likely to tell you a story or a parable in order for you to understand his point.
In today’s Gospel reading the evangelist Matthew gives us three brief parables. What they lack in length, they make up in the depth of meaning. Let us consider the first two of the parables. They are short, powerful and get to the heart of our lives as Christians. In the first parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a buried treasure. In the second, Jesus likens the Kingdom to a precious pearl. As we reflect on these passages, we find that Jesus is not as much stressing the objects, the treasure and the pearl, but how we discover the objects and what our response is to the discovery.
These two parables are a snapshot of our Christian lives. As disciples, what is it that we are searching for? At our most basic level we are searching for a relationship with God. That relationship then ushers in the Kingdom or Reign of God, which is marked by peace, justice and harmony. Our two parables point to the different ways we uncover the Kingdom. In the first parable, the person just stumbles upon the treasure. We can picture her walking through a field and she trips over something sticking up from the ground. Lo and behold, it’s a fortune! Talk about luck. Sometimes that is how we find God in our lives. It is through an unexpected encounter with a person, or an event in one’s life that opens us to God.
The second parable, the one with the pearl, offers us a different perspective on our Christian life. In this parable, the merchant is actively searching for the pearl. We can imagine him setting up his business: buying boats, hiring divers, researching the best pearl beds in the sea. He has done all the necessary preparatory work. He does not just stumble upon the pearl; he has worked his life to find it. Maybe this is how you find God in your life. You have read the Scripture, participated in Mass, gone on a retreat, have a strong prayer life, volunteered at the soup kitchen, and visited the sick. And through all of these, you have forged a strong relationship with God.
Jesus has given us much to reflect on in these two parables. We could stop here. But I think the Lord is asking us to push a little further. I do not think that Jesus is simply trying to tell us that there are two ways to connect with God: by happenstance and through preparation. I think the key to the parables lays in the response of the woman who found the buried treasure and the merchant who found the pearl. And what was the response? JOY! Both of them were so joyful upon discovering the treasure and pearl that they were willing to sell everything. They were so filled with joy that nothing else mattered. Their joy led them to the true treasure, the Kingdom of God.
No matter how we find God in our lives, serendipitously or through persistent planning, it will bring us unimaginable joy. That is the crucial knowledge, the simple fact, the pearl of wisdom that Jesus is sharing with us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.