Bottom line: Jesus offers us hidden treasure: his very self. Like Sancho Panza we get a glimpse of its immense value, more than all the earth. The price is also great - to sell all.
Jesus tells about a man who finds hidden treasure - and out of joy sells all to purchase it. As a lead-in to today's Gospel, I would like to use an illustration from Don Quixote. Don Quixote - I am sure you know - is a rollicking tale filled with good humor. It also has some wonderful insights.
The story I would like to use for this Sunday's homily involves not Don Quixote himself, but his squire, Sancho Panza. Sancho serves Don Quixote with the hope of one day becoming a governor. As governor he will gain wealth and prestige - and above all, be able to elevate his wife and children.
As things work out, Sancho finally does obtain a governorship. But before that happens, he has an experience where he sees earth from above. From that viewpoint our planet looks as small as a mustard seed. After that vision he says that he would prefer the tiniest slice of heaven rather than have all the earth.
They explain to Sancho that they don't have power over heaven, so he winds up taking the governorship. To everyone's surprise he turns out to be a quite good governor. I will let you read Don Quixote to learn how it turns out, but this episode does apply to today's parable.
Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven as a hidden treasure, a pearl of great price. When a man discovers that one thing of incalculable worth, he will sacrifice all to obtain it. Sancho Panza - for all his bungling - sees a glimpse, a tiny slice of something worth more than anything on earth.
What is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price? If you remember last week, we talked about Jesus as the "autobasileia" - he himself is the kingdom. Jesus has more worth than anything on earth or even all the earth together: its oceans swarming with life, the land with its mineral resources, the sky with its winged creatures. It has a beauty beyond imagining, but in comparison to Jesus, it is like a bit a dust.
Jesus is the Kingdom of God. Heaven is nothing more - and nothing less - than a relationship with Jesus.
Now, to some people this seems escapist - thinking about heaven when there is so much to do here on earth. But the irony is that those who think about heaven - who sacrifice their lives for Jesus - those people often do the best for their brothers and sisters on earth. You could give many examples: Blessed John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St. Frances Cabrini and thousands of other who lived humbly, seeking God.
When our World Youth Delegation goes to Europe, on our first day we will visit the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare - two young people who sold everything to obtain the hidden treasure. Francis and Clare transformed Europe, making their century one of the most brilliant ever.
In the first reading we heard about a man who made a good start toward the kingdom. His name was Solomon and ruled Israel after David. In a dream Solomon was offered anything he desired. He could have asked for wealth or triumph over his enemies, but he did not. He asked for wisdom so he could govern prudently. It was a beautiful desire and it pleased God.
Solomon, however, dropped the ball. He got involved in lustful practices and he allowed foreign gods into Jerusalem. It was not what we today would call "tolerance." It was watering down the faith of Israel. Solomon began a process of decline that required prophets to get them back on the right track. So, we can see in Solomon a man given the gift of the wisdom, but then not carrying through to the end.
That can happen to us. Jesus warns about bad fish getting mixed in with good fish. Every fisherman knows you have to separate scrap fish from edible ones.
The bad fish are not only Christians who backslide. You and I can have bad fish swimming in our subconscious - and conscious - selves. We may have made a down payment on the hidden treasure, but unlike St. Francis or Mother Teresa or the Spanish Martyrs, we have not yet sold all.
Still, it is good to make the down payment. If we trust in Jesus, he will help us complete the purchase. Make no mistake, the price is everything.
In summary: Jesus offers us hidden treasure: his very self. Like Sancho Panza we get a glimpse of its immense value, more than all the earth. The price is also great - to sell all. Amen.
From Archives (for Seventeenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
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my bulletin column
Statement from Bishop Blair regarding the Susan G. Komen Foundation
Alternatives to Susan G. Komen
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru