Our brand of Christianity, Community and Ministry -Wednesday, 17th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 13:44-46
Today, we look at the fifth and sixth parable in a chain of seven parables that Matthew lists in chapter 13. The purpose of the parables is to give us an insight into the dynamic nature of the kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. Both the parables mentioned in today’s Gospel have an object of great value at the heart of the narrative. In the first case it is treasure and in the second it is a pearl of great price. However what is different in both the parables is the way in which the seeker stumbles upon them and that becomes our take away for today.
The treasure in the field is stumbled upon; it is not actively sought after. Without a socio-cultural explanation, the parable sounds a bit shady and dishonest. We are told that someone finds a treasure in a field which he hides again in that field. One would wonder, why did the man not honestly declare that he has found a treasure so that the one who had hidden it may rightly claim it?
While there was some sort of banking system at the time of Jesus (Jesus makes reference to it in 25:27) the populace at large resorted to their own form of safety deposit. They would dig a hole in the earth and an oak tree in the valley would be the marker. But wars had a way of displacing people from their lands, if not, the oak tree could have been chopped down to be used. As a result, it was not uncommon for treasures to be lost.
So, should you be lucky and stumble upon a treasure, that treasure could be yours only if you owned the land. The person in the parable has found a treasure by chance. He could only legally lay claim to it if he purchased that plot and to do that he would have to sell “all that he owns.” Yet he does it for the he knows that what he owns at present is a shadow of what lies in that plot.
The second parable also has a treasure at the heart of the narrative but this time the merchant is in search of fine pearls. He is not in search of one but many. We are told that his desire to own many pearls changes the minute he finds one of ‘great price.’ Pearls in the oriental world were more valued than the diamonds of today. He too, like the person in the previous parable, goes and sells all that he owns in order to buy the pearl.
The kingdom of God is dynamic; there is no one way to encounter it. We may be that non believer who stumbles upon it because the Christian believer begins to talk about his or her faith experience of Christ in the bus or the train or it may be something that we are seeking because the emptiness of the world cannot fill the void in our soul. What ever be the case, thousands of people over the years have had this ‘Christ experience’ promoting them to give up all that they followed, possessed, held or believed in order to embrace Christ and his Church.
If the kingdom of God is dynamic, then we have to ask ourselves if we have made it static. We have to ask ourselves If we have insisted on promoting and projecting our brand of Christianity, our brand of ministry, our brand of community. It is painful to see so many Churches and ministries stuck in a mould and lost in a time capsule with some of its members suggesting that their way must be the only way to make Christ known.
But for us who find or have found Christ at some stage in our life, there is a challenge thrown to us too. The merchant and the man who found the treasure knew at once that what they had stumbled upon or found was far greater than what they held on to. Christ is far greater than the relationships or the earthly possessions or power that we may have at the present moment. Perhaps many have had that moment when they encountered Christ and realised he was what they really needed but they may not have had the courage and the willingness to let go of all they had.
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