17 Sunday in Ord. Time
1 Kings 3:5.7-12; Rom. 8:28-30; Gospel of Matthew 13:44-52
What is Your Most Precious Possession?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at St Joseph's Church, Victoria Street – Singapore
on 30 July 2017

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this weekend, Jesus continues to urge us to renew our commitment to living the Gospel.  Today, Jesus is proclaiming the Truth of the Kingdom of Heaven as the most precious treasure that we can ever possess in our lives.  Indeed, Jesus reminds us to reflect on the Truth that the “Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in the field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.  Or the “Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value, he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.”

The closest ordinary human experience that we are familiar with is someone who is deeply in love would be willing to give up everything they own and have, just to marry the person he/she loves.  It is not too uncommon to hear of stories of people desiring to marry the person they love, but for one reason or another, their parents strongly object.  The reasons of objections could be: differences in religion, or race or social status or financial securities, or incompatibility or others.  However, we know of couples who will go ahead with their marriage even though they may be disowned by their parents. 

More dramatically, we know in history that King Edward VIII was made King of the United Kingdom, the Dominions of the British Empire, and Emperor of India, on 20 January 1936.  However, after only about 11 months as king he abdicated and gave up his throne on 11 December.  This was because he was deeply in love with Willis Simpsons, an American divorcee.  Queen Elizabeth said, “He [Edward] must have been bemused with love. You couldn’t reason with him; nobody could.  The whole government tried; everybody tried. The only good thing is, I think he was quite happy with her.”

For couples like King Edward VIII, we can see that their love for each other is so deep that nothing else in the world can be more important.  In other words, people in love can see that their love for one another is a greatest “treasure” of their lives, so much so that they would willingly sell or disown everything they have, including their royal throne and their family, just so that they can possess the field that has the treasure or own the pearl of great value that they have found. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, if human love can be so deep, then today’s challenges of the Gospel that Jesus wants us to reflect on is, “What is our greatest and most precious treasure” here and now of our lives?  In other words, what would we consider as the most precious possession that we have, where, if we do not have them, then we would be totally lost, saddened and even consider our lives as not worth living. 

Let us not be surprised, if I were to say that the answers to this question of “What is our most precious treasure” of our lives would be quite different for different persons.  Recently, I met someone from South Africa who told me that his dream in life is to save enough so that one day, he and his son could go to England and watch Chelsea pay a match perhaps against Manchester United.  And he meant what he said.  Others, like Roland, who could represent the desires and dreams of many of us here could be expressed as follows: “My dream would be to win the TOTO draw of the latest $13.9m prize money, then I would be happy; with that money, I would then be able to buy my dream house, and car and then live happily with my family.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, what if Our Lord suddenly surprise us by saying, Roland, you go and buy a TOTO ticket and you will win the $13.9m prize money.  Would we then not be overjoyed and celebrate with our family and friends?  However, after a year or so, Ronald begins to feel somewhat bored, and then ask, “Lord, would you help me get a promotion in my job, so that I will have a sense of pride and recognition because the money I have does not give me the joy anymore.”  What if the Lord says, “Yes, Ronald, your wish is granted.”  Then again, after some years as the CEO of his company, after having to work very hard, Ronald’s health was affected and he became ill.  So, Ronald prays, “Lord could you please give me good health as my gout, my high cholesterol and my liver is out of control?  Right now, my health is preventing me from doing many things that I like.  The Lord, then patiently granted what Ronald asked. 

However, six months later, Ronald again became uneasy with his life and prayed, “Lord, my family is facing problems, could you make us a happy family that we were, once again?”  To this request, Ronald who had been “spoilt by the Lord’s unconditional Love, and expected a prompt reply, was greatly surprised as the Lord, this time remained silent.  Ronald waited and waited, six months came along; the Lord still remained silent . . . another three months came along . . . no stirrings of any indication from the Lord . . . Roland began to be impatient with the Lord . . .

However, when Ronald began to be impatient with the Lord, whom he thought had abandoned him, he then noticed that one of his managers, Julie seems to be so at peace with her work and colleagues, in spite of the many challenges she was clearly facing at work.  When Ronald asked to talk to her, Julie explained, “Sir, I had wanted to resign many times, because as you very well know that working for you has never been easy.  However, each time I go to prayer, I feel deeply drawn by the Lord to stay, as He wants me to give the support to some of my colleagues who are on the verge of break down and even thinking of giving up their faith.  In fact, I have been offered a better paying job too.  However, when I gained the courage to stay because I choose to be faithful to God’s Will for me, even though it was a very difficult decision, I have since found deep peace in my heart, even though the challenges of work remains. 

Ronald, was deeply touched by the simplicity and depth of faith the Julie has for God, and realised that all these years, he had been taking and taking everything that God has given him.  Roland had a one way relationship with the Lord.  However, Ronald now realises that he is now in a state of crises in his life and faith because he has brought this upon himself.  And this is because even as he had been receiving the abundant blessings, he had constantly taken God for granted.  Roland, had used all his material, financial, health and blessings for himself and his family and only returned loose change and left over time for God.  He has been praying half-heartedly, missing Mass as soon as he found a reason, giving $10 during the Offertory when he was earning $10,000 a month, and when he gained success, he took all the glory and glamour for himself, and had forgotten that all his successes were indeed, blessings from God.  Ronald also gave his work a higher priority than his family and the poor meant nothing to him. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remind ourselves then that while last weekend’s Gospels challenge us to be the “rich soil” that produces a rich harvest, this weekend’s Gospel challenges us to value the “Kingdom of Heaven” as our most precious treasure and greatest pearl in the “field” of our lives on earth.  The love for the “Kingdom of Heaven,” is deeper than any human love, and the desires of our hearts.  This love is the divine love of God that is given as a gift to us to grow into becoming more like Jesus, our Lord, like Julie the manager of Roland. 

In our recent priests retreat, our Retreat Master, Fr Olivier shared that when he was serving as a Priest in Ivory Coast, in West Africa, there was a man, let us call him Martin, who crawled to church every Sunday, because he was very seriously handicapped.  Martin, had to hold a piece of wood in each hands to help him crawl.  He could not use a wheel chair, because there were too many pot holes in the dirt road leading to the Church; each way would take Martin at least one and a half hours to get to Church.  When Fr Olivier met him, Martin gave him a big smile and said, “Father, this is my true home; I love Jesus, and I long to come to tell Him how much I love Him each time I come to Mass. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, we have no doubt that even though Martin is very severely physically handicapped, and lives in dire poverty on his own without any family or anyone to care for him, and even though Martin is a nobody in his village and society, we can still say without doubt that Martin’s life is indeed very much “richer” than that of Ronald.  Roland had every material comfort and financial security in life /except what is most precious. /What Martin had in his heart to be able to love God wholeheartedly, and become the Christ-like person of his life daily in spite of being marginalised by his society, Roland did not have.  Roland may own the field, but Martin possesses the precious treasure of the field and the pearl of greatest value. 

Martin deep joy and peace came from his deep love for Jesus, that Roland does not have because he has taken all the blessings from God for granted.  In keeping all the blessings for himself, Roland was never at peace in his heart and home.  This is because all the blessings that God give us can only bear fruit, if they are shared.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as I conclude, you and I know that what we have described about Roland’s pattern of desires, expectations, experiences and dreams in his life, in many and different ways, also describe our lives’ desires, expectations, experiences and dreams . . . and we all know very well, that nothing and no one in this world can represent the “most precious treasure of the field and the pearl of greatest prize” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel; ONLY God our Lord can be that treasure and pearl. 

And so, let us beg God for the wisdom never to take God’s Goodness and the abundant graces that He has given us and continue to give us, for granted.  Let us then, live more wholeheartedly for Him, by being Christ-like in all that we do and how we live daily . . . Then, we can say from the depth of our hearts that we possess the most precious treasure and pearl of greatest worth in our lives.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

1,497 visitors since 1 August 2017