Updated: Jul 29
Many of us immigrants can connect with today’s parables, to find a treasure buried in the field, hide it, go off with joy, sell all that we possess, and buy that field. This is typical of the experience of searching for a US visa or any other visa to get away from several places in Africa. For instance, to secure a visa to travel to the United States is something considered priceless. Usually, many of us had to give up our landed properties, including houses and cars, to make sure that the process of traveling abroad happened. The reason is that exchanging that which we valued for this purpose is considered worth the risk. The individual believes that the visa would change her/his life for the better and would make up for what is given up in exchange. Hence, exchanging a possession for a higher treasure is worth the risk.
Christ presents two parables in today’s gospel, to explain the priceless nature of the kingdom of heaven. One is a treasure buried in the field and the other is a merchant who finds a pearl of great price. Finding the kingdom of heaven requires a committed search. The kingdom is hidden from the common eye, and like the US visa analogy, it requires wisdom to find it. The person who finds this kingdom hides it again. The reason for hiding this treasure is so that it is kept safe and secure. Anyone who has come from Africa knows that one common trait with those planning to travel abroad is that they try to keep their plan secret until its maturation. This is because you do not want to divulge this idea before it hatches and given the fact that sometimes there’s the fear of letting it out prematurely. It could be snatched from the one who already possessed it. The third step in that parable is that the individual goes off with joy. Knowing the kingdom of God is a huge discovery.
One joyful day in the lives of immigrants is the day they come out of the American embassy with the news that their visa interview was successful. Although there’s the concern of leaving one’s homeland, but the joy of securing such an opportunity overshadows the pains of separation from loved ones and family. The discovery is life-changing. The final step in the parable is that the individual sells off all that he has and buys the field. To sell what one has to possess a higher treasure constitutes wisdom. Christ invites us to consider the kingdom of heaven as the most increased investment and to go for it with everything we possess. Finding the kingdom of God is life-changing.
Solomon is presented in the first reading as a model for approaching priceless treasures. Solomon’s request is simple, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The choices before Solomon are plenty: long life for himself, riches, victory over his enemies, etc., and it would have been easy to choose material things over something as simple as an understanding heart. Yet, Solomon asks for the wisdom to understand what values lie in knowing God’s will. Solomon hides everything else and buys God’s treasure. God blesses Solomon above any other human and empowers him with the mind to distinguish right from wrong. Such is the pearl of great price and Solomon is reputed as the wisest man to ever exist.
If we return to our migrant example, it makes sense to state that securing an immigrant visa is not an easy task. Hurdles, disappointments, anxieties, time, and the inconveniences of seeking to find interview dates are all tough steps along the way. But wisdom guides each step. Saint Paul’s injunction in the second reading also appeals to this analogy, “that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” The person who finds this treasure/opportunity prays fervently for God’s assistance to overcome all the obstacles, to accomplish the goal. Here also, one recalls the African proverb that says, “You cannot climb to the mountain top without crushing some weeds with your feet.” The road to greatness comes at a great cost.
We must remind ourselves that we are immigrants of heaven, seeking “visas” daily as we work to gain entrance on the last day. The kingdom of heaven is our priceless treasure, yet finding it is not easy. Each of us is confronted with choices that interfere with possessing that treasure. Each of us faces challenges along the way. Each of us is threatened with material cravings that attempt to distract or dissuade us from intentionally reaching out for our set goals. At the end of that parable, Christ asks his disciples, “Do you understand all these things?” And they answered, “Yes.” Maybe they did. But we can repeat that question for ourselves as we listen to these words, “Do we understand the cost of discipleship in today’s world? Do we understand the cost of seeking the kingdom of heaven? Do we understand the value of what God is laying before us?”
Friends, God has placed the most priceless treasure before us. It is the same kingdom that we pray for every moment as we recite the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come…” Now, we have it as God’s gift to us in Christ Jesus. Does it not make sense that we cherish it with the last drop of our blood? We must not let anything snatch it away. God has equipped us with the graces to search for and to find it. But how do we secure this priceless treasure? We find it through our sincere fellowship with the Church, the mystical body of Christ. We find it in the sacraments -reconciling daily with Christ in confession and in communing constantly with Christ in the Blessed Eucharist. We find it in keeping the commandments of love for one another and through charity to the less privileged brothers and sisters. We find it in prayers and devotion to God, the same as Solomon did. Everything works for good as long as we love God and express this love for others. While we search for the kingdom, we lose nothing else, rather God’s kingdom brings with it every other thing that our heart seeks. For this reason, Christ assures us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). I still feel the excitement on my face that very day as I walked out of American embassy with the US visa in my hands. Imagine that you have a place in God’s kingdom after this sojourn on earth, only then will you understand the wisdom of Christ’s statement, “… and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Readings: 1st- 1 Kgs. 3:5, 7-12; 2nd- Rom. 8:28-30; Gospel- Matt. 13:44-52