By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
In the gospels, Christ uses parables to help us understand heavenly things using our human realities. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to certain treasures found buried in a field and to a merchant in search of fine pearls:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Matt. 13:44-46)
The parables of the treasures in the field and the fine pearls are particularly interesting because of their reflection in our everyday real-life experience.
The treasures and the fine pearls found by the two men in the parables denote something special and invaluable that must be loved and cared for, and which may even necessitate giving up everything in order to possess, maintain and sustain them. Our faith teaches us that the kingdom of heaven begins with the here and now. In our present reality, we need to talk about the ‘treasures’ that lead us to the ultimate treasure (the kingdom of heaven). We cannot attain the ultimate treasure if we do not cherish the earthly treasures entrusted to our earthly care. The real treasures of life are right under our noses: the people we share our lives with, our communities, our possessions, our gifts and talents, and the opportunities we have every day to show our values as Christians. It is in such ordinary things that we discover the kingdom of Jesus.
In the two parables, one man found a treasure by chance — he stumbled on it. (It was luck, you might say.) The other had to search diligently for the fine pearl before he finally found it. But either way, both worked hard to possess, and then to maintain, what they got.
It is a reality of life that some people are just lucky; their treasures come to them without much pain — the joy of a good family (a great husband or wife), very obedient kids, a good-paying job, good health, a strong faith passed on to them by their parents, etc. But others aren’t that lucky. They have to work extra hard, sometimes with pain and difficulties, in order to discover and possess their treasures — they work extra hard to remain happy with a family (constant struggles with marital relationships), struggling with children that are in and out of trouble, struggling to keep a job, struggling with health issues, etc.
These two parables are challenging. They challenge those whose lives are going well not to take their good fortune for granted. Work harder to maintain what you have by treasuring it all the more. For those who are still struggling, it’s a challenge never to give up, a challenge to believe that if you work hard, remain patient, and keep working on making whatever you have better, you may eventually discover a “fine pearl” in your struggles. In other words, regardless of how we discover our treasures, we need to cherish them when we have them. Our possession of God’s kingdom hereafter is based upon how we manage our here-and-now treasures, whether they come easily or we struggle to discover them. We must not take anything for granted. We must find joy in the things we have, even if it means struggling to make them better.
For us to maintain our treasures or discover our fine pearls, we need to let those who are close to us know how much we cherish them. Be positive about what God has blessed you with. Learn to shower words of blessings upon the treasures that God has bestowed upon your life — your spouse, children, family, friends, job, etc. Tell your family, friends, co-workers how beautiful they are, how intelligent they are, how helpful and priceless they are. Let them see you as one who can give up everything to possess them simply because they are of inestimable worth, like the treasure in the field and the fine pearls. They are certainly not perfect, but grace is built upon nature. People grow and do better when they know they’re appreciated. Don’t be too negative towards others all the time; you can find the most beautiful pearls and treasures in the world if you are patient and positive with what God has placed in your care.
And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to love yourself regardless of your looks, your state of life, or your condition — who you are is equally priceless!
Father Jacob Dankasa is the parochial vicar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Wylie.