Is there a "buried treasure" to be found in our experience of COVID-19?
In addition to having to practice "social distancing," many have lost jobs or seen their businesses fail, while others have endured serious illness or lost loved ones to the pandemic. Every sector of society has been affected by this virus: couples have had to postpone weddings, students have missed out on internships or graduation celebrations, homeowners cannot keep up with mortgage payments, athletes have lost opportunities to compete, farmers have fewer corporate customers, front-line employees are at risk every time they go to work ... In short, the whole fabric of society has changed. Add to the mix peaceful protests, violent conflicts and increasing divisions between people along political lines and we have a recipe for emotional disaster.
All of us are at risk, from the residents of retirement homes who are unable to have visitors to school kids who miss their friends and are disappointed about cancelled summer activities. There are those who have already sunk into depression and those who have taken their own lives. Only the strong can get through these times -- or those who aren't very strong who will survive only if others help prop them up!
More than ever, we have need of that "buried treasure," that experience of God's Presence that we can access whenever we pray or practice love. Just as the buried treasure is hidden in the field, so there is a treasure hidden in our experience right now: the invitation to live more deeply and compassionately, to rely on God for our strength, and to find ways of practicing the Beatitudes regardless of our circumstances. If we're feeling lost in these tumultuous times, maybe we need to dig a little deeper ...
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Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which someone finds and hides again,
and joyfully sells all that he has to buy that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he sells all that he has to buy it.”
MT 13: 44-46
Today's parables remind us that the Kingdom of God is worth everything-- not just money but our whole-hearted commitment, even if we have to resort to deviousness or spend all we have for the sake of the treasure. The person who sells the field is clueless about the value of the property. Perhaps the land is stony and poorly irrigated, causing the landowner to imagine that he or she has just made a bargain.
"What a fool!"
the landowner might chuckle to friends and family.
"Not much farming sense but his loss is my gain!"
Unbeknownst to the former landowner, the scrubby parcel of land conceals unimaginable wealth. As for the pearl of great price, the merchant is aware of the value of the pearl and is willing to pay everything for it.
It's interesting to juxtapose the actions and attitudes of the characters in these two parables. The landowner who sells the field judges by appearances and sees no value to the plot; meanwhile, the person who buys the field sees potential ("the treasure") and deliberately takes advantage of the seller. In contrast, the pearl seller knows the value of pearl of great price and is willing to sell it-- for a fair price-- to the merchant who has carefully assessed the value of the pearl. Both the pearl seller and the merchant enter into a "good faith" transaction, without any duplicity.
If the landowner had any idea of of the field's real value, would he or she have sold it? Can you imagine what it would be like to learn that the "fool" who bought the plot is now the wealthiest person in town? Can you imagine the heartache and frustration, the self-recrimination and the anger? Sadly, each of us owns a field with a "buried treasure" but we tend to be oblivious to our wealth. Instead of rejoicing in our treasure, we ignore it, forget about it, take it for granted, and even dishonor it. Instead, we go seeking treasure in other places, always thinking that the next material acquisition, or career move, or relationship, or "peak experience" will bring happiness. And so it is, then, that we devote all our time, energy and resources to making money so that we can buy more, do more, have more when the only "treasure" that will satisfy is the treasure within.
What is it that distracts us? Why is it that we become consumed with material goals at the expense of our spiritual well-being? Like the landowner, we fail to see what is really important; unlike the merchant, we lack commitment and conviction.
- Is the Kingdom of God buried in your field and what can you do to make it grow?
- What are you willing to spend on the Pearl of Great Price?
- How do the parables of the Kingdom help you understand Jesus' mission and the meaning of discipleship?
- With which of the characters in Matt 13:44-46 do you identify the most fully?