JULY 30, 2008- JEREMIAH 15:10, 16-21; MATTHEW 13:44-46
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A BURIED TREASURE. This text from the Gospel of Matthew finds a counter-intuitive application in the experience of Jeremiah the prophet as recounted in the passage of his autobiographical memoir that we have just heard. After learning from our Lord that discovering the kingdom of heaven is like coming across a buried treasure we hardly expect one of the greatest heralds of the kingdom to rebel in a time of vexation precisely because he announced the discovery of the precious pearl. His complaint is heartfelt: “When I found your words I devoured them.” But then, he adds: “Under the weight of your hand,” he exclaims to the Lord, “I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. . . . You have become for me a treacherous brook whose waters do not last.”
Our Lord speaks of the joy of the discovery that God opens his kingdom to all who seek. What we tend to overlook is that he added that there is a price to pay in order to gain possession: we must sell all we possess to be able to purchase it. The prophet had tasted that joy and eagerly devoured the words declaring God’s plan from his people. But as he digested the message he cried out “my bowels are in pain (4:19).” He discovered by experience that to prove worthy of citizenship in this kingdom one must learn to live by the power of God’s word, for human strength is not adequate to withstand the resistance of this world. As Saint Paul was to declare later on “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness of this world (Eph 6:12).”
To claim the treasure hidden in the field, Jesus points out, it does not suffice to discover it. The field in which it is buried does not belong to us but is in the power of another. The price asked for it is high considered from our point of view. Yet, compared to the treasure it secretly contains, it is a unique bargain. Obtaining it is a one time opportunity to lay hold of all we need to satisfy our fondest hopes for happiness. Once we are convinced of the real worth of this hidden treasure we will no longer hesitate, but with joy sell all we own, rid our self of every other possession and thus place our self in a position to lay hold of this priceless pearl. Have we discovered it? Have we entered the place in the depths of our soul where it lies hidden? The place of God, it is called by the Fathers, where the Lord himself dwells within us if we only admit him by placing our trust and faith in the words of his Son.
We are given a pledge of full possession of this treasure as we participate in this Eucharist. By its grace may we free our self from all other goals so as to dedicate our days with energy to God’s service and thus enter into ever fuller communion with the risen Lord, who, himself is the pearl beyond all price.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger