Be prepared for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time with this week’s Opening the Word.…
Parables: What are the hidden treasure and the field?
Question: In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told of a man who finds a hidden treasure buried in a field (cf. Mt 13:44). What is this treasure, and where is the field? It’s one of those parables that I don’t quite get.
— Jonathan Marcus, Washington, D.C.
Answer: We often like to think of parables as pithy stories that make a clear point. But in actuality, like any story, they are more like riddles or analogies that admit different interpretations. Jesus would often explain the parables at length to his apostles “in the house” — for example, Peter’s house. In this case we do not have a full disclosure of Jesus’ interpretation of the parable. Hence, like any story, we must allow it to mean many things. For this answer I will dwell on one meaning.
The field where the person finds buried treasure is the heart. And the person who discovers this treasure is the one who realizes that he has an infinite longing that a finite world could never give. So he sets his whole life on what alone can satisfy: the Lord. Everything is subordinated to this one goal, that of knowing the Lord, who alone can satisfy the heart’s infinite longing. But, as you wonder, why is the treasure hidden, and what does that mean for us?
To say that the treasure, an image for the kingdom of heaven, is hidden is to indicate that the gift and glory that God has waiting for us is not something we can fathom. Scripture says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9)
Yes, what God has prepared for us are joys unspeakable and glories untold; a Kingdom, a place and vision so glorious that it cannot be described or understood by us now. Oh the glory of what waits, the heights and depth of it, and the ecstasy of beholding the beautiful, magnificent and wondrous face of God, he who has made us for himself. We have an infinite longing in our hearts that this world can never supply, no matter how vast its offerings.
But now, much of this is hidden from our eyes, from our understanding. And this hidden quality of the kingdom of heaven, like a buried treasure, is also what most derails us in our pursuit of it. There is an old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” And this is a way of saying that a pleasure that is currently available to me now is deemed more satisfying than some future pleasure, even if it is far greater than what I have now. The trinkets of the world that are present to us now too easily mesmerize us and make us dismissive of some future glory that we cannot see, and we must trust God that it is ours if we are faithful.
It is true, we must trust God who assures us of joys unspeakable and glories untold. The treasure is hidden in the field of our heart and we must give our hearts wholly to God who alone can satisfy us.
There is only one solution. We have to fall to our knees and beg the Lord for a new heart and mind. God has promised this if we will humbly ask.
And thus we should pray:
Heavenly Father, I love you but not enough. Increase my love. I tend to desire worldly trinkets more than what you offer. I desire things that I know are bad for me, in abundance, and I do not desire what I know is good for me. My heart is disordered, and I cannot fix it on my own. Please, in your love, go to work on my soul. My life resembles almost nothing of the one who found a hidden treasure and sold everything for it. Only you can bring this about. I give you permission to go to work. I ask that you be gentle, for I am weak and can only take so much. But, please Lord, do what you need to do, in the way you want to do it. All I ask is your grace and mercy.