We conclude our reading of Matthew 13 with its last four parables about the kingdom of God. In our reflection, I wish to focus on the two parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. They are parallel stories and convey the same message. The first tells of a man who discovered a hidden treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field. The second parable is about a merchant who found a pearl of surpassing value and sold all his pearls to buy the one fine pearl.
Both parables are images of the kingdom of God, the ultimate value beside which all others pale in comparison and become dispensable. The first man discovered the treasure in the field accidentally, while the merchant found the extraordinary pearl after diligent search. Both parables teach us that no matter how we discover the kingdom, two things are necessary: the wisdom to recognize the inestimable value of the kingdom and the boldness to wager all for the kingdom.
Our simple understanding about the kingdom of God is that it is where God is king, where his will is obeyed. In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth”, Pope Benedict XVI dedicates a whole chapter on “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” At the end of a lengthy and profound theological discussion on the theme, the Pope presents Jesus as the perfection and the fulfilment of the kingdom of God. For indeed, his entire life and mission totally revolved around the will of the Father. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (Jn 4:34)
“In this sense, it is in and through [Christ] that the kingdom of God becomes present here and now… In this context, we understand Jesus’ statements about the lowliness and hiddenness of the kingdom; in this context, we understand the fundamental image of the seed… in this context, we understand the invitation to follow him courageously, leaving everything else behind. He is the treasure; communion with him is the pearl of great price.” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol 1, pp 60-61)
Thus, all the parables of the kingdom fittingly point to Christ, the perfection and personification of the kingdom of God. Truly, Jesus is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price.
Coming from a deeply devout Jewish family, Edith Stein lived her childhood with an unshakeable belief in the God of Israel. During her teens, however, the precocious and highly intelligent youth was exposed to secular writings and by the age of 14, she became an atheist.
After pursuing her philosophical studies and excelling in her profession, she was introduced to the Catholic faith particularly through the writings of St. Teresa of Avila. At the age of 21, she came to know Jesus and from thereon, her life totally changed. She asked to be baptized. Eventually, she left everything, including a brilliant career, to enter the Carmelite monastery. She ended her life as a witness to Christ in the gas chamber of Auschwitz during the Nazi persecution. Like the farmer and the merchant in the gospel, Edith Stein readily and happily gave up everything to possess (or rather, be possessed by) Christ whom she had discovered.
When we come to know Christ, everything takes on its proper proportion and true worth. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul speaks of the indisputable effect of knowing Christ. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 2:8)
The first reading recalls to us the heartwarming story of the young King Solomon, who was told by God in a dream to ask for anything which God would grant him. Solomon asked only for “an understanding heart to govern [God’s] people, able to discern between good and evil.”
Today, the whole nation will listen to the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
In a circular letter, I have instructed that during the SONA, our churches be opened for a Holy Hour. We shall pray for our country and particularly for our leaders so that, like Solomon, they too may be given an understanding heart, able to discern right from wrong, capable of serving the common good above personal interest, and accountable to the people who elected them and to God who is the source of every authority.*