GOSPEL REFLECTION 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
THE GREATEST TREASURE
by Rev.Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: MATTHEW 13:44-52
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.”
In his book, The Next 500 Stories, Frank Mihalic, SVD relates to us that in 1922, some of the world’s successful businessmen held a special meeting in Chicago. They were a group of high-powered specialists who knew the secret of making money. There was no doubt about where their altar was.Thus their main preoccupation was on making lots of money.But let’s take a look at what happened to some of those men 27 years later:
-Charles Schwab, president of the largest independent steel company, died bankrupt and lived on borrowed money the last years of his life.
-Samuel Insull, president of the greatest utility company, died a fugitive from justice, penniless in a foreign land.
-Howard Hopson, president of the largest gas company, was insane.
-Arthur Cutler, the greatest wheat speculator, died abroad in poverty.
-Richard Whitney, president of the New York stock exchange, was sitting in Sing Sing prison.
-Albert Fall, a member of the President’s cabinet, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
Frank Mihalic concluded that all these men knew how to make money, but none of them knew how to live. I like this story. It has a powerful message that we may ponder upon. For me, this story is not to condemn riches nor it is something against being rich. I think there’s nothing wrong with material possession. What is in question here concerns man’s values and priorities. What are the values and priorities we “treasure” in life? Is God our first priority or we give more importance to something or someone else? What is the deepest and most important value in our lives? Do we see God as that value? Do we value more the things that the world has to offer? To say that material things are not important in life is hypocritical. Of course, we need money to survive. However, we should never overlook our greatest treasure i.e. God and his Kingdom. “Set your hearts on his Kingdom first…and all those other things will be given you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus made his point clear to us that the Kingdom of God is of utmost importance by telling us a couple of parables – the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of precious pearl. Jesus said – “The Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden 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” (Mt. 13:44) In order to attain, therefore, that treasure one has to sell everything he has to take possession of the field, thus he has shown how much he values that treasure.
“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.” (Mt. 13:45) Therefore, one cannot possess the pearl of great price unless one sells all that he has, thus to show how much the pearl is important to that person.
This reminds me of that rich young man in the Gospel who claimed to be righteous, and so he wanted to know what thing to do to guarantee eternal life. Our Lord Jesus challenges him to sell everything and give them to the poor and follow him. But he cannot! The instruction to sell all and follow Christ was designed to reveal that the man treasured his earthly possessions more than the heavenly hope, that he would rather maintain his lifestyle than becoming a follower of Christ.
Pope Francis says that the only treasures we should be storing up are the ones that have value in “the handbag of Heaven.” We are but stewards of earth’s riches; when we are so blessed with it, it doesn’t mean that we selfishly keep them to ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with material possessions, but if we are blessed with it, then we should realize that there is a real joy when we improve our sense of charity and service. We do not just live for ourselves, but the best human existence is that when we live it in the service of others.
I could only admire Solomon in the First Reading today(1 Kings 3:5:7-12). Solomon was given an opportunity to ask something from God. It was a chance of a lifetime. He could have asked God for material possessions and earthly happiness. But instead, he asked for wisdom, understanding and right judgment. If like Solomon we are also given a chance to ask whatever God could grant us, what are we gonna ask God for?
One thing is sure, our response will reveal which we value most. In the end, if we remain faithful to God and his Kingdom heaven will be our reward. This is the message of the third parable – the parable of the dragnet.It tells us that everyone is being invited to his Kingdom – good or bad alike. But man is free. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” as the saying goes. Only when we constantly thirst to be one with God can we achieve our goal. Our goal should be with God forever -to be part of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, in our journey through life, we need to prioritize this. And all other things of this world are only means to an end, which is the Kingdom of God.