•1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 • Romans 8:28-30 • Matthew 13:44-48•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Recently, while waiting to pay for a few tomatoes in a Canadian convenience store, I noticed the woman in front of me spent a sizeable amount of money for lottery tickets. I presume she, like so many others, was hoping to win one of the big jackpots, perhaps millions of dollars, probably thinking wealth will bring happiness. It is sad but true, that many who have won millions discover wealth cannot assure happiness and often complicates life in negative ways.
Stories of buried treasure are among the oldest and most universal fables in human culture. Perhaps we are so familiar with the three parables that we fail to hear and appreciate what Matthew’s Jesus is saying. So lets try to find a fresh appreciation of them.
Jesus was a teacher who saw “reality” as many folks do not. He saw that Gracious
Mystery we name God in every experience, and in every person he met. For him that simple phrase — “kingdom of heaven” refers to God present and working effectively in our everyday lives and throughout creation.
His parables tell us “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,” and “like a pearl of great value.” Both images refer to that Gracious Mystery we name God. They are telling us that while generally undetected, God is here among us and in us, interwoven into everything.
Instead of that commonly used phrase – “the kingdom of heaven/God,” I prefer to use the phrase “God’s new reality.” For me that more clearly suggests the “more humane world” that God is bringing forth among us in Christ.
Like any teacher, Jesus did not use parables to add something to our store of knowledge. He used parables to change the way we process our knowledge and how we perceive reality. He used parables as a means of retooling our brains and awakening our “inner eye.”
Two researchers developed an experiment that demonstrates most folks have not developed their ability to see everything that passes through their field of vision. In their experiment people were told to count the number of passes a specific basketball team makes. While the passes are being made, a girl in a gorilla costume comes onto the court, walks among the players, at one point even stands directly in front of the action, then leaves. Though almost everyone came up with the correct number of passes, many did not see the gorilla! They simply were not looking for her. Their experiment verified that our vision is selective. We only see what we expect or are conditioned to see.
With those images of “buried treasure” and “pearl of great value” Jesus is talking about his
experience of God. It completely transformed his life. He calls us to see below or beyond the external. He calls us to experience that Gracious Mystery when we observe a gorgeous sunset or a rushing waterfall, or hear a roaring wind or the thunder in a summer storm . He calls us to experience that Gracious Mystery when we carry an infant or embrace someone we love?
The third of today’s parables often is overlooked. “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. They sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Life is short and often complicated by things like lottery tickets or mortgage payments. Be wise, discerning and selective. By ridding self of all that is accidental and by stripping self of what is superfluous I can more easily listen to the whispers awakened in my heart by these parables.
They remind us of what is important — the project of humanizing the world. That is the project of the Gracious Mystery we name God who is here among us and in us, unseen, interwoven into everything and everyone. If you commit self to that project rather than simply looking only for your own well being, you will find fulfillment and happiness far more surely than by winning the lottery.