The parable Jesus tells in today’s gospel has a foundation in reality. The land of Palestine was a famous coastland trade route between Persia, Syria and Egypt. Palestine was also a dangerous place to live. Besides being a trade route it was also an invasion route with armies from north and south attacking the land. Facing such dangers it was not unusual for ordinary people to gather whatever they valued and bury it in the ground to save it from looting soldiers. It could happen that a family could be wiped out or taken away as slaves. Years later someone could happen to come across such buried treasure. It’s been known to happen even today in different countries in Europe when a farmer plowing his field turns up something of value or an ancient artifact.
The points of the parables of the buried treasure and the precious pearl are God’s kingdom is something of extraordinary value; it’s worth everything we have and calls for our total commitment.
We know that the Christian community of Matthew’s time was under great pressure. Those who chose to follow Jesus as Messiah were seen as men and women who abandoned their ancient faith. Their decision to follow Jesus split families, alienated friends, and meant expulsion from the synagogue. It was a costly affair.
The parable of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price are all about making a choice to accept Jesus for who He is or not. They are all about appreciating the value of a living relationship with Him and being willing to pay the price for such a relationship.
Jesus is the new “treasure” buried in the field of humanity. Once a person understands the value of the relationship which Jesus offers, that person lets go of all that gave him or her value before and buys the “field” with the “treasure” buried in it – no matter what the cost.
We don’t have to make such hard choices as did the people of Matthew’s community. I think it would be safe to say that our need for a living relationship with Christ is on the back burner of our lives. We try to fit it in to family obligations, a busy life style, and a promising career. We can honestly ask ourselves, is a lifegiving relationship with Christ really a treasure, a pearl of great price for which we are willing to give up everything else – or is it something we take for granted, not too much front and center and for our part, not too demanding.
Could it be that the cost of coming to a deeper, lifegiving relationship with Christ might mean finding the time to spend a bit of peace and quiet in prayer each day, or making the time to be more faithful to Sunday Mass or even trying to attend daily Mass?
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we pray as Solomon prayed for an understanding mind and the ability to discern between good and evil and in that wisdom come to better appreciate what a treasure, what a pearl of great price is a deep, lifegiving personal friendship with Christ, Who loved us and gave His life for us. And if ever push came to shove – as it does sometimes for some people – we would be willing to give up all that is precious to us and make our own that great treasure, the pearl of great price and be able to say with St. Paul, “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me and the life I live, I live trusting in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave His life for me.”