To Seek, To Find, To Give, To Possess: Wednesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time

Exodus 34:29-35; Matthew 13:44-46

The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, a Catholic, once said that he would have written a shorter letter but didn’t have time. Anyone who has tried to say exactly what they want to say in as few words as possible knows how hard that is.

Our Lord is certainly a master of it. In two sentences he gives us a wonderfully deep insight into the spiritual life. The idea is simple; hidden treasure is found, the finder sells everything and buys the field. But there are really four things: Seeking, finding, giving up, and owning. God does them, we do them, and the result is what Israel saw with Moses in the first reading; when we are touched by God, our very being changes.

First, seeking. In the parables, a man finds a treasure. Who is the seeker, man or God? Before answering, consider: the treasure had to be hidden first or there would have been nothing to find. The reality is that God is not hidden; he has written his image into us and around us all creation proclaims his glory. Yet as St. Augustine once said, “You were with me and I was not with you; created things kept me far from you.” Sinfulness keeps us from seeing him; we feel the emptiness, the hunger, but look to worldly things to fill it, only to find that everything the world has to offer leaves us as empty and unfulfilled as we were before. Still, God is faithful and always ready; when we turn to him with our whole heart and soul to do what is right before him (Tobit 13:6), he comes and finds us.

No wonder the man in the parable was filled with joy! I see that kind of emotion often in people who are new to or returning to the faith; they are so happy to have finally found what their hearts had been searching for. There is great joy knowing that God is near, has our good in mind, and loves us. But we should remember too, as Scripture reminds us, of God’s joy, for he first loved us (1 John 4:19) and greatly rejoices when one is found who had gone astray (Zephaniah 3:17; Luke 15:7,10).

Of course, joy and good feelings aren’t enough. In any relationship built on genuine love more is asked, and when that comes to the greatest of all, our relationship with God, the greatest is asked. Jesus made it a point in the parables to say that the men who found the treasure didn’t give up part of their wealth to obtain it; they gave up everything they had. As with both seeking and finding, God has given up everything first. Anyone who doubts that need only look at a crucifix. But to quote St. Augustine again, God made us without us but will not save us without us. The questions for us today are: What are we willing to give up? What stands between us and complete devotion to doing God’s will?

Finally, possession of the treasure. For our Heavenly Father, this flows from the greatest sign of his infinite love for us – the passion and death of his only Son. As St. Paul said, you are not your own… you have been purchased at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As for us, note that the man in the first parable buried the treasure and bought the field. Why do that? In those days, owning the land meant that you owned anything that was found on it or in it; he could not claim the treasure until he claimed the land it was found on. For us, the land is our faith. When we have the faith, we possess the kingdom whole and entire; what our gospel acclamation said: all that the Father has told us (John 15:15).

In the first reading, Moses became radiant in the presence of God and while proclaiming his word to Israel. This was the same the man who once made excuses to God to avoid being sent by him to do anything, let alone proclaim his word. But then, it wasn’t the same man; he had allowed God to work within him and through him, to “possess” him if you will, to so transform him that he became the man God called him from all eternity to be. When we are touched by God, we too should show it, and that is the other question we have to ask ourselves today: Can anyone tell that we are Christians, not by our being here, not by our rosaries or prayer books, but by the way we live our lives? Can anyone tell that we have sought God, and that he has found us?

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