Homily for July 27th, 2016:
The day labor who unexpectedly finds in his employer’s field a buried treasure that can change his life is living at the subsistence level. The merchant searching for fine pearls is rich. Despite this great difference between them, the two are in other respects alike. Both are surprised by their unexpected discovery and filled with joy.
The two are alike in another respect as well. Obtaining the treasure each has found will cost each one all that he has. The closing sentence of the parable says this explicitly when it tells us that the merchant “goes and sells all that he has,” in order to possess the treasure he has discovered.
“God’s kingdom is like that,” Jesus is saying. Neither of these two men thinks for a minute of the sacrifice he is making. Both think only of the joy of their new possession. Both know that the great treasure they have discovered is worth many times over what they are paying to possess it.
Must we pay a price to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ? Of course. And yes, sometimes that price is high. But when we think only of the cost of discipleship, we make our religion grim and forbidding. In these two linked parables Jesus is emphasizing not the cost, but joy at the infinitely greater reward that the Lord gives to all who are willing to sacrifice all for him.
Jesus came to bring us that joy. “All this I tell you,” he says in John’s gospel, “that my joy may be yours, and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn. 15:11).