Lectio Divina: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Hidden Pearl in our Daily Lives

Paris, July 25, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo

1) The Kingdom of God is like …

The Gospel of today’s liturgy concludes the thirteen chapter of Matthew and at the same time Jesus’ teachings in parables. Even the three short parables proposed today concern the Kingdom of God, which is likened to a treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44), to the merchant in search of fine pearls (Mt 13.45), and to a net thrown into the sea (Mt13:47) of life.

The Kingdom of God, source of peace, truth and love, is charity, peace, harmony, joy and salvation given by God to men in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. This is an absolute novelty in our history and for which – this is the message of the first two “twin” parables of the treasure and the pearl – we must decide promptly and completely. Let’s think for example of Zacchaeus, who “immediately climbed down the tree, went to his house and welcomed Jesus joyfully offering Him the half of his goods to the poor” (Lk 19, 6-8) or of the Samaritan woman, who in joy “left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people: ‘I met the Savior (cf. Jn 4: 28-29).

Two are the features of the Kingdom that the evangelist emphasizes today: the preciousness (“the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure … and the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls”) and the joy for the great good found, even if not explicitly sought (“The man … full of joy goes … and buys that field”).

The farmer and the merchant find treasures in different ways. The first, who finds it between bushes and stones on a field not his own, is struck by surprise. The second finds the pearl because it is a passionate connoisseur and knows what he is looking for. In any case it is possible for all to encounter God or to be met by God.

Once he has found the treasure, the man full of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Joy is the first treasure that the treasure gives. God seduces us once more because he speaks the language of joy that moves, makes haste and decides: “Every man follows the road where his heart tells him he will find happiness” (St. Augustine). Joy that lasts is a sign that you’re walking correctly and on the right track.

We advance in life not because of short spurs of will, but because of a passion or for a discovery of treasures (where your treasure is, there your heart races happily: see St. Augustine). We advance because we fall in love and for the joy that it brings. The one who lives is the one who advances towards what he loves or towards whom he loves: Jesus Christ.

The discovery of the treasure and of the pearl makes us lucky farmers and merchants. We should not be too proud of that because, ultimately, it is a free gift from God. A gift should not be a source of pride, but of gratitude and responsibility. We have to say thanks to the One who made ​​us “stumble” into a treasure, indeed in many treasures along many roads and in many days of our lives. If we look at our lives one thing is clear: we tried so hard, we have looked in so many books and among so many people but we have not found anything better. Nothing is found which is better than the Gospel and the Church. To sell ​​everything for Christ is the most profitable deal of our life because that act did make it intense, vibrant, passionate, joyful and at peace, and, I hope, at least a little useful to someone else. We understand that giving to Christ is equal to flourish. To choose Christ is not a mere duty, it is to choose a treasure that is the fullness of human life, peace and strength, surprise, charm and resurrection. God is not a requirement, He is a Pearl.

We are grateful to the Lord, because with him life is never trivial. With Him life is amazement, love, peace, joy.

2) In Christ we are the treasure and the pearl.

I do not think I am distorting the meaning of today’s parables when I say that we are the treasure and the pearl that Jesus buys back with the “currency” of his life given totally to us.

He is a merchant and farmer, he searches in the field of our life: for each of us, for all our brothers and sisters. He renews our hearts, and the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, a good heart, a caring heart. It is our field that matures treasures, in ourselves and for others, it is it that makes the rose of our world bloom.

The third parable speaks of the net that collects everything and then of the fishermen sitting sorting out the fish. It reminds us that we are all like the fishermen, who in life and in the heart have collected everything and have pulled out good things and things that were not worth anything.

Now is the time for the intelligence of the heart, the time to discern, to preserve and also to get rid of what hurts.

Now is the time to do as the last image of today’s Gospel suggests: to do as the scribe who became a disciple and brings out of his treasure new and old things.

Today we are given this good news: every disciple has a treasure, no one is without it. We are strongly encouraged to look within ourselves, in our interior archives full of events, words, encounters and happiness, of people as treasures and experiences that we forget, do not take the time to enjoy, waste and do not seek to increase.

As at Mass we dare say the “Our Father”, yet today we dare to ask God the Father for undeserved treasures. He has already given us many. Let’s ask for a gift of deep-set eyes like those of the attentive scribe. Eyes that are able to see, entangled in our net, the treasures collected in our life, short or long that it is, the talents received and the people we have met.

Let this heart, become good of the goodness of Christ, be grateful as the heart of a child.

3) The pearls that gave all for the Pearl.

The offering of ourselves to God, recognized as the Pearl, concerns every Christian, because we are all consecrated to Him through baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our life, in the family, at work, in service to the Church and in the works of mercy. However, this consecration is lived in a particular way by the religious persons, the monks and the consecrated women in the world who have chosen to belong to God fully and exclusively. Totally consecrated to God, these women are dedicated to their sisters and brothers to bring the light of Christ into the world and to spread his hope in the disheartened hearts. A consecrated life, understood and lived in this way, is just as it really is: a gift from God, a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to his people! Every consecrated person is a gift to the people of God on the road.

In a sense, the consecrated life brings to the surface what belongs to everyone, becoming at the same time memory and prophecy, waiting and forecast now of what will come. It is in this way that the consecrated life plays its most important duty: to become transparency of the Gospel – of the root of the gospel- questioning every Christian, whatever choice he has made.

Patristic reading

Saint John Chrysostom: Homily XLVI. Matthew Chapter 13

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Much as in the other place, the mustard seed and the leaven have but some little difference from each other, so here also these two parables, that of the treasure and that of the pearl. This being of course signified by both, that we ought to value the gospel above all things. And the former indeed, of the leaven and of the mustard seed, was spoken with a view to the power of the gospel, and to its surely prevailing over the world; but these declare its value, and great price. For as it extends itself like mustard seed, and prevails like leaven, so it is precious like a pearl, and affords full abundance like a treasure. We are then to learn not this only, that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is gain, and not loss.

Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things in the gospel?

Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul, anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith “One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold all and bought it.” For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.

And much as he that hath the pearl knows indeed himself that he is rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth.

3. After this, that we may not be confident in the gospel merely preached, nor think that faith only suffices us for salvation, He utters also another, an awful parable. Which then is this? That of the net.

“For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”

And wherein doth this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those Before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.

Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates them, but here He saith the angels do this; and so with respect to the tares. How then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more suited to their dullness, at another time in a higher strain.

And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of His own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe. For lest, on being told, “They east the bad away,” thou shouldest suppose that ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the punishment, saying, “They will cast them into the furnace.” And He declared the gnashing of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.

Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the thorns, by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason therefore did He say, “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go away by it.”

4. Having then uttered all this, and concluded His discourse in a tone to cause fear, and signified that these are the majority of cases (for He dwelt more on them). He saith,

“Have ye understood al! these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.”

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7 Responses to Lectio Divina: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

  1. Brother Burrito says:

    I cannot help noticing the likeness between the ACN Symbol of Solidarity, and a ring set with a pearl of great price:


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    To wear the ACN symbol around one’s neck would be an act of courage in many countries.


  3. toadspittle says:

    “The farmer and the merchant find treasures in different ways. The first, who finds it between bushes and stones on a field not his own, is struck by surprise. The second finds the pearl because it is a passionate connoisseur and knows what he is looking for.”
    Either way it’s just plain luck… or just plain idiotic.

    Why, in a sane world, should a pearl be worth anything at all? Because it’s rare? So what? Do any of us care?
    …Same as rejoicing that we are all imbecile sheep, without the brains to come in out of the rain, unless the Good Shepherd gets his dogs to work on us.
    Well, OK. But if we really are that stupid – shouldn’t the Good Shepherd make sure none of his flock go to Hell out of plain old dopiness?
    (Yes, I know, boring, broken record.)


  4. kathleen says:

    Seeing the frustration and constant hopelessness of agnostics (Hi Toad, once more!), and atheists, makes me realise more clearly than ever that Faith is indeed a treasure, a treasure given freely and undeservedly to Men who seek it with love and humility. We have done nothing to merit so great a gift – for are we not all sinners? – so should never feel ‘proud’ of possessing Faith, only deeply filled with awe and gratitude. If only all men could discover such joy and fulfillment – for this “pearl of great price”! For it is surely lack of Faith that is at the root of all the world’s problems.

    “Let us thank God for having called us to His holy faith. It is a great gift, and the number of those who thank God for it is small.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori


  5. toadspittle says:

    I don’t feel at all “frustrated,” by life. Saddened, at times, certainly – by aspects of it.
    Best to shrug our shoulders, and cultivate our own garden. And do what we can, of course. But…

    Yes, I do feel human beings, as a species, are all hopeless – but that is, I suppose, the price we pay for having evolved consciousness of our human predicament.

    “For it is surely lack of Faith that is at the root of all the world’s problems.”
    Well possibly.
    Or, also possibly, the fact that there are countless interpretations of Faiths – all different, and each believing that only they have been given divine access to The Truth.
    …That’s all guesswork on Toad’s part, though.

    Anyway, would it be wrong to imagine some Catholics are feeling “frustrated and hopeless,” themselves, by the way others of their faith are being abused right now?
    …And that such feelings aren’t entirely a monopoly of Agnostics?


  6. kathleen says:

    Yes, you are right there Toad… I should have said that it is the “… lack of the True Faith etc.”

    And I agree that many of us Catholics are currently feeling “frustrated” at least in the selfish, uncaring way the majority of governments, organisations, the secular Media, and even many laid back Christians in the West, are all turning a blind eye towards the brutal oppression of Christians in the rest of the world today. (See my comment just now on “Christians: the world’s most persecuted people”.) Never “hopeless” though: we have Our Blessed Lord’s promise that His Church will continue till the end of the world. And Our Blessed Lady’s promise of the ultimate triumph of her Immaculate Heart. Nonetheless, the Church is certainly going through a type of Via Crucis right now.


  7. toadspittle says:

    …And the end of the world may not be too much longer in coming, when we look at Israel and the global implications.

    However, I don’t believe the “secular” media is “turning a blind eye” to the Christian Persecution story. It might not be getting all the coverage it merits – stories very often don’t – but there may be good reasons for this.
    Remember that between 1942 and 1945 there was little, if any, significant media coverage of the Nazi racial extermination programme. A “good story,” if ever there was one. So, why not?
    Was Germany going to proudly invite the world’s press to come and see what they were up to?
    …Send out colourful press releases? Are ISIS?
    JH has remarked, rightly, that the media should be careful what it runs, and we should be careful what we read. How can the press and TV confidently verify the accuracy of stories like those coming out of Mosul?
    I think they are probably running as much as they reasonably can, at present.

    …But I’m skulking in my adobe ivory tower on the sideline, don’t know, and might be wrong.


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