Jesus said to the crowds: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
There are four parables in today’s Gospel. Jesus uses these four parables to teach us about the kingdom of heaven. It is the biblical expression about what happens when God is really king. However, in modern time, it is hard for people to accept kingship because of our democratic political structure and doctrines. For us, who have faith, we do believe and accept God is our king. And we read today’s Gospel in the context of this belief that God is our king and how can we let the king to be our king.
The first parable is about treasure hidden in a field. This hidden treasure must be first found and the one who finds it knows it is a treasure. It implies that if we want to have the treasure, we must first take the initiative to find it. Since it is hidden, we have to look for it in unlikely places, such as our sufferings or as the saying goes, “blessing in disgust” places. How do we know the found treasure is the kingdom of heaven? The test is whether we find joy in this discovery. It is not an ordinary joy, but a great joy that we will sell everything for getting the field where the treasure is buried. Why buying the field and not the treasure? It is simple. In old days, the safest place for people to keep their treasures is field. If one finds a hidden treasure in a field it can certain that there are others hidden in the same field that have yet to be discovered and unearthed.
The next parable is a merchant in search of fine pearls. It sounds like the parable about the hidden treasure, but is different in details. Jesus did not spell out what kind of person who finds the hidden treasure in the field. That person can be anyone who is observant and always look to unlikely places for God. But in this parable, Jesus told us that the person is a merchant. What is the common characteristic of merchants? The answer is their readiness and willingness of taking risks. As soon as the merchant finds one pearl of great value, he immediately takes the risk of selling everything that he possesses and buys the pearl. Are we also ready and willing to take the risk of giving up everything for the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven?
In the third parable of fishing, Jesus added an interpretation to it at the end. The fishermen in the parable sort out their daily catch at the end of the day. They keep the good and throw away the bad. From this parable, we can see the importance of daily examen suggested by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Also, it is important for us Catholics to go to confessions on regular basis so that we can keep the good and reject the bad things within us. Why we have to do these things on regular basis? It is because we don’t want at the end of the age the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Note, before telling the last parable, Jesus asked the crowds: “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” Then he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Why Jesus asked them whether they understood or not before telling them another parable? It is because if we cannot practice what Jesus taught in the first, second and the third parable, there is no way for us to follow what he is going to say in the last parable. This parable is for those who become wise after being trained for the kingdom of heaven in the first three parables. After becoming wise in practicing the first three parables, we can bring out our treasures and find out which are new and which are old. It is only then, we can become disciples of the Kingdom of Heaven.
To sum up, if we want to become disciples of the Kingdom of Heaven to allow God to be God, first we must look for God in unlikely places in our lives, in our community and in our world. Next, once we find God, we give up all things for God alone. To continue to purify our souls after finding God, we should examine our lives and go to confession on regular basis as a sign of our humility. Finally, with the grace of God, we review our gifts and find which can serve the greater glory of our God. Amen.