07.26.2020 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary
Updated: Oct 9
Parable of the Hidden Treasure
The painting is divided into two diagonal sections: the background and the foreground. The panoramic view of the vast landscape, silhouettes of mountain ranges, barren hills, stark vegetation and a city in the distance draws us to the figure of a man who gazes beyond the horizon in contemplation and determination. He gazes not at the priceless treasure of ornate antiques laid before him. He has past the point of being thrilled. Rather he seems to grasp reality with a vivid understanding of THIS IS IT! He has finally found the hidden treasure he was seeking!
He resolves to sell everything he has so that he can buy the field.
The top corner of the painting displays the city gate. This clearly indicates that the field is not situated in the town, but on the outskirts. And the hidden treasure in found not in an excavated hollow but rather within the cavern of a little mount.
This strikes the right chord for those who attempt to read between the colourful lines of art and the gospel. Jesus was crucified at Golgotha or Mount Calvary which is located outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Thus the treasure the man discovered is indeed Christ Himself. Beside the shovel of the man lies a bunch of wild acanthus, which is a symbol of endurance and everlasting life. This affirms that the treasure found is everlasting!
The light of dawn enlightens the face, mind and heart of the man. However his figure casts a shadow on the sacks of treasure waiting to be found. The ones discovered glisten in daylight. Thus the light served not only to emphasize the external reality of space occupied by the subject the painting but rather to reflect on the internal workings of the man’s character and mind.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure digs through the reality of the life of Rembrandt. Very interestingly the face of the figure in the painting is thought by many to be that of Rembrandt himself. His painting thus shadows his search for the ‘true treasure’.
44 “[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’. 45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it’. 47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.
51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 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.’”
After teaching the multitudes by the seashore, Jesus now talks to with his Disciples, also in parables, about the Kingdom of God .
He has explained them two important parables: the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Darnel and the Wheat. Notwithstanding that the immediate meaning of these two ‘enigmatic’ Parables needs to be discerned, the message He wants to convey has been received: “the Disciple of Jesus will suffer for the sake of the Kingdom; s/he will be buried and die to produce a harvest, like the good seed; s/he will have to understand that the judgment about his/her present sufferings is in the hands of God, who will sort everything out at the end of time. Now that his audience has understood about the Kingdom of God, a question arises: “Is it worth investing my entire life to be a Disciple of Jesus if things are going to be that way?” To answer this question Jesus presents three new Parables: the Hidden Treasure, the Precious Pearl and the Dragnet.
Jesus with the crowd: v. 1-35
Parable of the Sower: 3-9
About parables in general: 10-17
Explanation of the Parable: 18-23
Other Parables: 24-35
Jesus alone with his Disciples: 36-52
Parable of the Weeds 36-43
Parables of Treasure, the Pearl and the Net: 44-50
The Hidden Treasure
We find in the Rabbinic literature a saying: “There is only one safe repository for money: the earth”.
This explains that in the time of Jesus, the way of banking is different from what we usually know nowadays. It is not surprising that Matthew at the end of his Gospel writes about what happened to the lazy servant who refused to make profit with the talents he received.
By the same token, in time of war, a household that has to flee for their security may hide their belongings in a safe place, underground, with the hope that, one day, when war is over, they may return to find their goods well preserved and untouched.
The finding of the treasure is a fruit of the persistence and will of the “treasure seeker”. The surprising point in the Parable is that he went, sold all his possessions and experienced great joy through the investment.
Selling one’s possessions (all that apparently is so precious to us our ‘ego’ being the dearest of all) sets us free and available for the Kingdom of God. What we will discover is worth the effort and will fill us with abiding joy.
The Precious Pearl
Unlike the “treasure seeker”, the merchant who finds the most precious pearl knows what he is looking for. He spends his energy and his life in the search. His efforts bring him the reward he was looking for.
Jesus gives us a wonderful description of the Kingdom of God as being so valuable and so beautiful. Being a Christian and fulfilling God’s will, needn’t be a sad or heavy endeavour.
God is the most valuable treasure and the joy of our lives. Behind the cross we find the greatest beauty and the reason of our being, the reward we always dreamt of: Supreme Holiness and Beauty.
Such is the description of the “New Jerusalem” in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:21): “The twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass”.
The dragnet is a fishing method by which fishermen gather in a net all that they find in the sea and then pull the net ashore.
Jesus chooses these examples from the daily life of people. He is thus inviting us to think in earnest about our daily lives to find practical examples of God’s love. Jesus wants us to pay attention to the way God is able to reveal Himself in the most humble ways, in the most common situations, in our own very labour.
As fishermen pull the net ashore, so the Disciple of Jesus gathers together all those who are called into the Kingdom of God.
All peoples are called into the Family of God. The Disciples are not to make the selection. Sorting out good and evil is God’s work, and He will do that at the end of time.
We are asked to put our own talents at the service of God. We are not called to abandon our giftedness, but to put it at the service of the Kingdom. Doing what we do is good enough if we do it for love of God and of our neighbour.
The Disciple who searches for God, finds Him in the most common of places, as Brother Lawrence would say: “I felt Jesus Christ as close to me in the kitchen as ever I did at the Blessed Sacrament”.
Of course, Brother Lawrence is not trying to diminish the value of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but emphasizing that God is also found also in our daily duties if we ‘dig deeply enough’ to find Him.
We feel encouraged to put into practice our faith so that others may discover in turn the treasures of God through our witness of life.
Isa. 45: 3
“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name”.
teach me to search
for the hidden riches of Your Kingdom.
Help me to seek You with all my heart.
Remind me that the answers to my prayers
are only the beginning
of a relationship with You.
You are the treasure!
The Kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure: contemplate the treasure that lies hidden ready to be discovered: Christ can be discovered behind every act of goodness, humbly waiting to be discovered by the searching heart.
Christ is our Treasure. We discovered Him but that is not enough. We need to dedicate our energies to making Him visible and known.
Christ is the Scribe who brings together the old and the new: He takes the Prophetic Tradition (the old) and opens up the Kingdom of God to those far from Him (the mission to the nations).
What is the “old” and the “new” that God is asking me to bring together?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Matthew 6:21
Contemplate your priorities and how your life reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.
Do you consider worthwhile investing all your life in pursuing God’s will? What does that mean to you at this very moment?
Do I find joy by practicing my faith, by proclaiming it, by investing my energy to love God and serve my neighbour?
How can I put all my talents at the service of the Kingdom?
 Matthew 25:25: “So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground”.  Job 28:18: “No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls”.  Colossians 2:2-3 “I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.