In this beautiful homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Father Hanly looks at the parable of the man who stumbles upon hidden treasure.
Readings for Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
- First Reading: First Kings 3:5, 7-12
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
- Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30
- Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46
As you know, we’re in the series of weeks where we look into the parables, the parables of Jesus.
I mentioned last week that parables are to be described as very short little stories. Their purpose is not to dispense wisdom and understanding or to take notes. It’s supposed to attack your imagination and you’re supposed to kind of struggle with what the meaning is.
So, to tell you the meaning is false, because a parable is set up in such a way that there are many, many, many different kinds of meanings. And, of course, the one who struggles with this begins to understand the fullness of the love, care, of God Himself.
At first, they seem to be a little bit too brief and maybe not enough material. But if you look at them very carefully, if you know a bit about the Bible and the habits of how not only Jesus but all the great rabbis used these parables to do … What? To stop us from taking everything literally and giving us an opportunity to float in the middle of these images and come up with our own conclusions.
So, in a sense, we should just let everybody read them themselves and see what they make of them. But what we will do is, just briefly, give you an indication what it means. But, when you read the Bible and you come across this kind of genre, you’ll be ready to enjoy it yourself in the quiet of your room.
Now, Hidden Treasure, that’s the first one. There was a man.
You notice now we’re not talking about the sower who was Jesus — God came and He sows His seed etc. Now we turn to individual people, so there was a man beginning of all this set of little stories.
There was a man and he was stumbling around in a field and he stumbled upon a little mound. And he was curious and he dug into it and he found a huge treasure.
Now, this is very common in those days of Jesus. Even today in certain countries like India and other places where there’s a lot of turmoil going on, what the people do is they hide their riches, they bury them deep in the ground.
And sometimes the war maybe has a terrible effect and they lose sight of it, because they flee and their lives change, but they lose sight of where the treasure was buried or perhaps they were massacred (inaudible).
Anyhow he’s walking around. It’s not his field, but he finds an old treasure — that means all the gold and the silver and everything that a rich man had collected.
Now the nice thing about this parable is that he’s not allowed to keep it. It’s not Roman law. If you’re in Roman law, you can keep it. But in Hebrew law, it says if it’s not your field, whatever belongs in that field doesn’t belong to you, so you can turn it in and they have to look for the people who really own it, you see.
But he’s a little bit careful, so what he does is he digs another hole someplace else and hides it there. And now he’s going to go and sell everything he has, everything he has, and he buys the field so nobody will know he’s got this hidden treasure. It’s a great story.
Jesus doesn’t comment on the dishonesty of the man or what’s on his mind. Jesus wants to focus your attention on the good fortune that this man, just an ordinary bloke, stumbles on.
And it makes him a very important person, a very wealthy person.
But that’s not the point either. Why? Because it doesn’t matter to God and it doesn’t matter to Jesus who is important or not important, who has money or doesn’t have money. None of this is relevant.
What is relevant, though, to this story, is the wonder of the fact that he looked at something he found was a treasure, a very, very special treasure, you see, and it led him to lay his life down for it.
He took it and he buried it carefully and he was going to not tell anybody, but he was willing to change his whole life because of what he found.
So, one, of course, of the reasons Jesus tells these stories is because everybody is listening, like you are. And he doesn’t explain it. Never. But this is a little bit easier than most.
If you know Jesus and you know what Jesus is about, Jesus is not about making little men rich. That’s not what he came for, otherwise he would have made us all very prosperous and we’d all be fighting each other over money.
Anyhow Jesus only came for one purpose. What?
To say that to find your treasure, the treasure in your heart, the treasure you hope to find some day — whether you go to the Mark 6, or whether you go to the Jockey Club, or whether you go in a sophisticated way into business — but your treasure, as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart.”
Now, if you want to know what your heart is like, then you answer your own question. The heart hungers. It hungers for many things, but what it hungers for most is security. Everybody wants security.
There’s no end to the money. It’s really silly if you look at it: everybody running after money and getting money here and there — and it’s not worth anything except to buy something else.
But what Jesus is saying is this man is willing to give his whole life for security.
And what Jesus is also saying is, and in life, the trouble is he doesn’t know what his security is going to be, but if he becomes a very rich man, chances are that he’ll break up the home and the family and everybody will be fighting over who gets the money, and all of this sort of stuff.
What Jesus wants you to know is what is the treasure? What is the thing that you treasure most, that you would never give up, that brings out in you, not an eagerness for money and success, but for love. What do you love? What do you sacrifice for? What do you care about?
And if your answer is money, then you haven’t looked deep enough into your own heart. Because money is just an object that comes as maybe a little security, but doesn’t usually deliver. It’s not worth the effort of your whole heart yearning for it and spending your time trying to accumulate it.
What is worthwhile?
Well, it’s very easy. Jesus says, “Where your heart is, that is where your treasure will be.” And if your treasure is God then your heart is in the right place. It’s that simple.
Your heart’s in the right place if you always remember that the greatest treasure is He sending His Son all this way to tell you: “You are forgiven and loved and cared for and I am going to prove it, not just by telling these stories, but by laying my life down for you.”
And it is God who lays his life down out of love. Now this is a great treasure. And don’t miss the chance.
So that is what the parable indicates.
Yes, you must, just like when you were little children, you must search for your treasure and then make sure that it is (inaudible) treasure that you want, that you need.
And then and only then will found the hidden Christ, the hidden God, who is in all of our days and hours and time.
Do you wonder why God hides?
God hides because He knows that if you find Him and experience Him and begin just to forget all the other stuff and turn your heart to Him and love Him, then you will have found the meaning of your treasure, the meaning of your life and the meaning of why we are all sitting here today saying quite happily, “Yes, the treasure at the centre of my life is indeed Jesus, who calls me, and my Father, who awaits me. And together we walk through everything in life: the difficulties, the troubles, the love, the meaning.”
All of these things come naturally if you can figure out this parable the man stumbles upon, because we stumble upon God.
We think that God is hiding from us, but we are hiding from God most of the time. He’s dancing all around us.
We say, “Oh yeah well, maybe next month or maybe next year. Oh yeah, I’ll get around to it. Just stay where you are.” It seems like a mystery and I’ll just use this one example.
There was a little girl in a big forest and she got separated from all the family that was picnicking in the forest and she got lost.
And so everybody ran searching all over the place for the little girl and they searched all afternoon.
And evening began and people began to go home and the only one left was the father. The father wouldn’t give up. And it’s dark and damp and the father is worried about the little girl. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
And, finally, what happened to the little girl? Well, she got tired of looking for the father and family and she found a nice grassy spot in the middle of the forest and it was open so she lay down and went to sleep.
And then the father is screaming and yelling and calling and everything and, finally, he tumbles onto the little area and his daughter wakes up and she jumps up and she runs across to him.
And he’s so happy and she jumps into his arms and she says, “I’ve finally found you, Daddy.” She thinks she found him and forgot about all his trouble and all his tears and all his work.
Well, that is like God. He might be hiding, but He’s always there. He’s close, He’s near, He’s helping, because He loves His children and He will never let them go.
But at the same time, we love to search for God. We love to feel like good people: I’m going to search for God and serve Him all my life.
And here we have the dancing God who’s always there. And He’s right when you finally say, “Yes, I just found God, I found God.”
And God will be weary from following you all over the place, in and out of every place you’ve been, and He will smile and say, “Yes, you found me and we are all blessed.”
Nice parable. And if you think of the parables that way, you’ll enrich your own life and your own hearts and your own feeling, because parables appeal mainly to the heart, whereas we mostly appeal mainly to the head.
So, forget the head and concentrate on the needy God who needs our love so much that He will chase us all over the forest while we sleep…