Reflection: 17th Sunday of the Year - A hidden treasure

Parable of the Hidden Treasure. Photo: Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

Parable of the Hidden Treasure. Photo: Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

The parables come to an end in St Matthew’s gospel this Sunday. We have three short parables but though they might be short, they are exciting!

St Matthew records that the ‘kingdom of heaven’ was an important part of the preaching of Jesus. But it is not easy to categorize, we need to think about them.

The kingdom of God is like someone digging in a field who finds a load of money buried there. It seems this was not unusual in those days because there were no banks. People hid their valuables in a field but it was plausible that they died without anyone knowing where the riches were buried.

Then it is discovered by a worker who is surprised and delighted and by selling all he has, he buys the field and receives his reward. This is an exciting and unexpected life-changing event.

Encountering God is like that. When a person encounters this extraordinary gift of God’s presence in their life, the experience is similar to the worker in the field, overwhelming and joyful.

The merchant who knows about pearls is shocked by seeing an exquisite pearl for sale and sells everything to make sure he can buy this pearl of great price.

Another surprise, not expected! The gift of God’s presence, the gospel tells us, is like that. The experience of God is so wonderful and unexpected that the recipient will give up everything, if necessary, to follow the call of God. The graciousness and generosity of God stand out here. A gift freely given - no one deserves it.  The gospels tell us that God seeks us out in many places.

They remind us that the apostles gave up everything to follow Jesus because the encounter with Jesus changed their lives.

We think of the unlikely people that Jesus called to receive his life in abundance. The amazing convert, St Paul of Tarsus, from persecutor to apostle, who in his letters to the different communities with which he was in contact, wrote so eloquently of the experience of God in his life.

He conveys to us the privilege of knowing ‘Jesus my Lord’ and of giving up everything for him. He tells us how, despite the troubles it brought him, it was more than worth it.

This experience occurs in every age with people who we recognise as ‘saints’ because their lives were totally committed to following Jesus Christ. But not just the famous, it happens with ordinary people who follow Jesus, who are as committed and fell as blessed as the saints, and who consider the privilege of receiving the gift of faith and the life of God dwelling in them as the greatest gift.

There is the third parable, the fisherman sorting out what he has caught in the dragnet. Is this an image of God, making the decision, as in the parable of the weeds and the wheat in a previous parable, as to who is acceptable and who is not? Everything comes from God’s initiative and grace. Praise him!

Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane. 

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