Ordinary Sunday 17th Week - 27th July 2008

“The Most Precious Treasure” – Gift of Eternal Life
(Matt 13:44-52)

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ
at 10.15am mass at Parish of St Ignatius – Singapore

The “treasure” that Jesus preached in the Gospel that we just heard refers to the “Kingdom of heaven.” Jesus explains to the crowds and to us here today that, if we were to find this “treasure,” we will be so happy that we would want to sell everything we own to buy the field.

Clearly, what Jesus is trying to proclaim to us here today is that this “treasure” which is the “Kingdom of heaven” is the most precious possession we can ever own in our life. That is why it is worth selling everything we own in order to possess it. To explain to you what this “treasure” means, I would like to show you a video interview of one of our Jesuit companion, Fr Pierfilippo Guglielminetti, now 70 years old and is living in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I am not just showing you a movie. I would like us all to watch, but listen with our hearts. God is speaking to you and to me through this Jesuit companion of ours.

[DVD is played]. In the video interview which was recorded in 2003, Fr Pierfilippo said, “3 years ago, I was alone in a big parish saying 3 to 4 Masses every Sunday. After Easter, I fell. The hospital found that I had cancer of the intestines. Now, they also found that I have cancer of the bones. Recently, I had an accident and I lost my right eye; my left eye is getting weaker and weaker. But, I am happy; and this is a very interesting experience. Many times when I am in solitude and loneliness, I felt so deep joy; a joy without reason because it comes directly from God. I understand this to be the meaning of my religious life.

And still more. When I had hard and very painful times, I was always also very peaceful and happy in my vocation. This is because it is the Will of God that before I had to work very hard in my pastoral job, but now God has given me the graces to share more deeply in the mystery of His Cross.” [end of DVD]

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the other senior Jesuits that you saw were also like Fr Pierfilippo, men who found the “treasure” that Jesus preached; they too lived their lives to the full. I knew them personally; some better than others. We saw Fr Kenneth Bogart,S.J. a Jesuit priest who was very well known for directing retreats with great gentleness and wisdom Then there was Fr Peyton who untiringly promoted the praying of the family Rosary to millions of people through his daily radio broadcasts in Manila. The distinguishing looking senior Jesuit whom we saw bending over to speak very fatherly and wisely with another fellow Jesuit on the wheel chair was Fr Francis Clarke,S.J. He was a Jesuit who never failed to edify you with his humility and goodness of heart; a very well loved former Jesuit provincial of the Philippine Province, an author of Filipino history and culture, and in all of these, he was truly a man of God.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, if we were to suffer the terminal illnesses and the great trials of Fr Pierfilippo and if we were interviewed, “What do you think you and I would be saying? Would our words sound like Fr Pierfilippo’s testimony? Would we find ourselves saying that we would find deep joy in seeing how God is giving me the grace to share in the mystery of His Cross? Fr Pierfilippo’s powerful and moving testimony captures for us what finding the “treasure” in the field means; what giving up every thing for the sake of God’s Kingdom means.

For Fr Pierfilippo possessing the “treasure” was everything; nothing else matters except loving and serving the Lord and living God’s Will at all times. He truly lives the Gospel of Christ to the full; whether he is able to work actively in the parish or sit still in the solitude of his infirmary, whether Fr Pierfilippo had one eye or no eyes, or even whether he has cancer of the intestines and bones, and even as he is dying slowly, he continues to find deep joy, peace and happiness in sharing the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, Fr Pierfilippo’s sufferings and trials are real. His holiness is not because he is able to withstand all the intense pains and sufferings of his life. His holiness is in his ability, with God’s graces, to love God so fully and so unconditionally, like Christ. Fr Pierfilippo is able to go through all that he is going through with so much peace and happiness because he has possesses the “treasure” that Jesus is offering us today.

The “treasure” that Jesus is offering us is not just a 12 carat diamond ring that glitters and attracts the attention and envy of our guests and relatives. The “treasure” that Jesus is offering us today is infinitely more valuable. God is offering us a peace and happiness, and a joy that lasts for all eternity.God is offering us eternal life. The good news for all of us here today is that all of us can possess this “treasure” and begin to experience this divine gift of God; even at this very moment, but only if we want to say, “Yes” to God.

Fr Pierfilippo himself, with great simplicity and sincerity shares in his own words how this “treasure” is so real. His accident first robs him of his right eye, then gradually removes the sight of his left eye, and even as he is going blind daily and with the rest of his body collapsing through cancer of the intestines and then of his bones, Fr Pierfilippo assures us that as he is experiencing a deep joy.

Where does Fr Pierfilippo get his deep joy and strength in his great trials and sufferings? Fr Pierfilippo says, “this joy is without any reason because it comes directly from God;” it is simply, he says, “the graces of God in his life”.

When I first watched the interview, I was moved to tears. And each time I watch it again, I want to cry. Why? This is obvious. We see the God’s power at work in this man of God; we see how God’s graces can also work in our lives if we only allow its divine power to transform our pains into peaceful joy. “Can any thing in the secular world or any person in our lives bring us such peace and joy in our trials in life?”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we think we have pains and trials in life, I am sure none of what we are going through can be close to what Fr Pierfilippo is going through. If we think we are holy, I am also sure many of us, I for one, is far from the sanctity of Fr Pierfilippo. As I am saying this, some of you may be thinking, and rightly so, “Speak for yourself!” This may be very true, but I believe today’s Gospel is truly challenging each of us through the witness of Fr Pierfilippo to see how much God truly loves us. As our loving and compassionate God is so deeply rooted in Fr Pierfilippo’s heart, this same God is also within our hearts truly and constantly caring and loving us.

God is real. God is in this Church. God is within our hearts. God is especially present to all of us now, and speaking to all of us now as we are listening to His Word through today’s Gospel of the “treasure” in the field. Indeed, God’s hands are reaching out to you and me, now, with the gift of the “treasure,” right in front of our eyes. God is waiting for you and me to accept and embrace the gift of His “treasure” that gives us eternal life.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, I can almost hear some of us asking a very strange question that many of us do not dare to voice out, just in case we sound so ridiculous. And this strange and ridiculous question is, “Where is this “treasure”? How can I receive it? “I don’t see it?!” Sigh . . . Where is this treasure?! As I said earlier, “God is offering it to us and it is right in front of us.” Yes, but where?!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the “treasure” is the gift of the Sacrament of the Eucharist! Is this not the “treasure” that Jesus is offering us that leads us to eternal life? Let us go back today and read and ponder on the whole chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel. Did Jesus not in the Gospel of John 6:54 say, “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life?” One reason why we are not allowing the “treasure” of the Eucharist to touch our hearts, strengthen and transform us as it does to Fr Pierfilippo is because many of us are too distracted in our daily living. And in being so distracted, we no longer value the divine “treasure” that Jesus is giving us in the Eucharist. We so easily develop the secular attitudes of taking God in the Eucharist for granted.

What happens during the Eucharist? Do we participate actively? And what about receiving the Lord in Holy Communion? Do we kneel to pray thank God for coming into our lives; for nourishing us; for giving us the “treasure” of eternal life or are we distracted by looking at the many people around us? Let us open our eyes more fully not to people around us, but to accepting and embracing this eternal “treasure” that God is giving us. Knowing that we are weak and easily distracted, in God in His Love and Compassion for us, has given us not only the ”treasure of the Eucharist” in the Church, but the “treasures of the Seven Sacraments and the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures that also give us eternal life.

There is not enough time to explain all these divine “treasures” that God hands out to us daily. But, let my conclude with urging us all to begin with the “treasure” of the Eucharist that we are now, at this moment participating in. Let us give our selves more attentively and more wholeheartedly to God’s blessings in this celebration. Let us, like Fr Pierfilippo draw strength from this fountain of God’s abundant graces in this Eucharist.

If we do this at all our Eucharistic celebrations, we can be assured that God’s divine power will truly transform our lives and give us all the strength we need in our trials, and more importantly, we will, life Fr Pierfilippo and the many others, also find this most precious “treasure” that leads us to eternal life; not only after we die, but already beginning here at this moment.

Fr Philip Heng, S.J.


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