Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice. Under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.
Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
Jesus said to his disciples, "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. And 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."
At transition points in our life, and certainly at the hour of death, we have no choice but to swap our possessions for the pearl of great price. Today's gospel calls for total consecration, and the prophet Jeremiah is an icon for this life of total service to God's people. We should be grateful for saints like him who invite us to put our life into perspective and to esteem what is lasting. During a bleak patch, Jeremiah composed his famous confessions. Today's lament brings his tragedy to God for a solution. Things are so bad that he even curses the day his mother gave him birth. When God replies, it is not to apologise for heaping so much upon the prophet's shoulders, but to make a wonderful promise. After wrestling with God just as Jacob wrestled with the angel, Jeremiah is promise God's support into the future, ” I am with you to save you and deliver you” says the Lord.
When Jesus asks us to live in a style that is detached from everything else for the sake of the one really valuable thing, it calls for a radical choice in our lives - the sort of choice made by today's saint, Alphonsus de Liguori, when he opted to dedicate his life to spreading the Gospel throughout southern Italy. The most difficult thing might be parting from our possessions, from our ambition for success, our reputation for holiness, the control of our future. But without some kind of parting from our comfort zone, we cannot move on to a deeper trust in God.
Sometimes we can stumble upon something of great value even though we were not looking for it. A precious gift comes our way unexpectedly, without our doing anything to make it happen. It might be someone who crosses our path and has a huge impact for good on our lives; or some important insight that suddenly comes into our mind when we are sitting back thinking about nothing in particular. That was the experience of the labourer in the first parable of today's gospel reading. He was being paid to dig up someone's field when suddenly he hit upon buried treasure. He sold the little he had to buy the field and gain that unexpected treasure.
There is a different kind of experience where we find something very valuable after a great deal of searching for it. We keep on looking, and, eventually, after a lot of effort we find what we have been looking for. That was the experience of the wealthy merchant in the second parable who kept searching for the finest pearl of all, until, finally, he found it and, then, sold everything to purchase it.
Jesus seems to say that the kingdom of God is like both of those human experiences. There are times when God graces us out of the blue. The Lord suddenly blesses us at a moment in life when we are least expecting it, as happened to the poor day labourer. The Lord is always taking some gracious initiative towards us if we eyes to see and ears to hear; he seeks us out. When it comes to the Lord, there is also a seeking involved on our part. Jesus calls on us to keep on seeking, to keep on asking, to keep on knocking, like the rich merchant in the second parable. When we are graced by the Lord, because of his initiative towards us and our searching for him, then, like the two men in the parables, we must be ready to give up whatever is necessary to hold on to that grace, that gift of the Lord, the gift of the kingdom. [MH]