17th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel – Mt13:44-46

" Our “Treasure” and Happiness in Life "

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 24th July 2011

We can safely say that all of us here want to be happy in life.  However, “happiness” seems to be so elusive that for most of us, we do not seem to find what we are looking for.  For many of us, even as we are searching for happiness in life, we do not seem to be getting anywhere or getting any clearer or wiser in our search.  We tell ourselves, every time we seem to be so close to finding the peace and happiness, whether it is within our family or in our jobs or with certain relationships, some obstacles and problems would surface and our short-lived happiness vanishes before our eyes.

This cycle repeats itself so frequently that we don’t even know what “happiness” is about.   Many of us we have gone through so much pain in our lives that we even begin to doubt whether it is ever possible to live a truly “happy” life or find the “treasure” that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel.  If we have been experiencing all these, then let me assure you that Jesus is precisely trying to offer you the Good News of Peace, Joy, Happiness and Salvation through today’s Parable of the “Treasure and Pearl in the field.”  

Before we reflect on what this “treasure” or “happiness” in life is about, it might be helpful for us to look at a true story that Fr Gino, our Retreat Master shared with us in the priests’ retreat of our Archdiocese that I attended last week.  An Indian Catholic couple Albert and Rosalind were both professors in Bangalore, India.  They have three lovely children: two sons and a daughter; all of them brilliant and very well brought up in the Catholic faith.

One day, their second son’s rib-cage stopped growing and the doctors’ prognoses were that he would die at the age of 18, and the doctors were right.  While both Albert and Rosalind were trying to recover from the trauma of the tragedy, their only daughter (let’s call her Maria), a brilliant girl of twenty four years of age, with a double doctoral degree met with an accident and suffered severe head injuries.  Maria suffered much, but like her good mother and father, never once complained or never ever uttered any words of anger towards God.  On the contrary, she was somehow not only able to find peace, but had developed a very close relationship with God through her sufferings. 

               

One night as she laid on her bed beside her mother, she said with a beautiful smile, “Mom, do you see the angels at the window?  They are coming to see me.”  Maria then died peacefully at 2.00 that very morning.  When their eldest son got married and lived in the United States, both Albert and Rosalind retired from their teaching profession in the university and started a college for the poor.  Through this college, hundreds of poor students were able to graduate.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure you agree with me that the lives of Albert and Rosalind clearly testify for us what it means to have the “treasure and pearl in the field” that Jesus in today’s Gospel speaks of.  Even as they were professors of universities, were very simple, unassuming and always filled with humility or more accurately, filled with the Holy Spirit.  They are people whom Jesus would say, “are willing even to let go of their most precious children in tragedies because deep within their hearts they have the “treasure and the pearl” of their deep love and trust in God.

Let us take note that the good news of the “treasure and the pearl” that Albert and Rosalind discovered is also, like Albert and Rosalind, within our reach because they are buried within our hearts.

If we were to ponder on the happiest moments of our lives we will find that those moments were when we were able to enjoy the company of people and our loved ones in wholesome and selfless ways.  They were also moments when we were able to be humble, selfless, generous, caring and serving the needs of someone or showing care and compassion to someone who was suffering and in pain.

However, if we were to reflect on the moments in our lives when we were guarded, selfish, proud, arrogant, jealous and the like, we can be sure that they were the “worst or saddest” moments of our lives.  And if our hearts are now with God, we would reflect on such moments with guilt, sorrow and regret and would want to beg God for His Mercy for being the cause of hurts, pain and divisions in the lives of people, especially those whom we love.

What does this tell us about the meaning of life?  What does all these tell us about the “treasure and the pearl in the field” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel?  My sisters and brothers in Christ, none of us and indeed no one in this world is born bad or evil.  We are all created in God’s image and likeness.  We are each blessed with God’s Spirit of love, peace, truth and happiness is in our hearts.  We need to search more diligently and dig more deeply into our hearts to find the “treasure and pearl” that is within us.

      
                            St Monica and her son St Augustine

There is no need to look for them in the secular world of power, possession and popularity because they not there; the treasure and the pearl are within our hearts.  St Augustine, one of the Church’s greatest theologian and saint before his conversion, lived a very secular and worldly life of sin.  This brought much sorrow to his saintly mother, St Monica, who prayed for more than thirty years, for her son’s conversion.  When St Augustine eventually found the “treasure and the pearl” of the field, he said, “Lord, I searched for You everywhere in the world and could not find You; my heart was utterly restless, but when I finally found You, You were residing in my heart.”

The next obvious question that I believe all of us have in mind at this point in time of this homily, “How do we search and unearth this treasure and pearl that is in our hearts?”  Is there a secret way or a simple way to discover this “treasure and pearl” so that I can change my life for the better and experience the peace, joy, truth and happiness that Jesus promises me in today’s Gospel?

      

The question is not so much whether the “treasure or the pearl” is within our hearts, but more specifically, you and I have to ask, “Am I willing to pay the price of searching and the experience of the pain of digging deeper into our hearts to find the treasure and the pearl?”  If so, there is hope; real hope.

But, if not, then pray for the grace to have it.  But, if we don’t have the desire to have the grace then St Ignatius would advise us at least to pray for desire to have the grace to do seek God in our lives in His ways.  The “treasure and the pearl” are in our hearts; they are Jesus’ ways of living; Jesus’ ways of seeing and Jesus’ ways of loving.  And the moment of grace is not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today; the grace of the present, and the here and now of our lives.  We must cease the opportunity of each moment to live more fervently for God.

It is in this context that I would like to add that our Parish community is blessed with many special opportunities that would seriously help many of us “search and dig” for this “treasure and pearl” in the field.  Tomorrow evening, Monday at 8.00 pm in our Church, we will have our Parish Penitential Service.  This is a special opportunity for us as a Parish family to renew our relationship with the Lord through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Many of us go for Confession during the year, but let me urge you to make a special effort as a Parish Family to be renewed communally and also to experience the special graces of God blessing our Parish Family and helping us grow as family.

In the past two years, I have been very touched by many of our parishioners who not only donate very generously, but say to me, “Father, thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow in my faith and my love for Jesus, and also do some good for the poor and needy in the world.”

      

Another opportunity to thank me in our Parish next week is when we will make a special appeal for more Parish Social Mission funds which has helped literally thousands of poor and needy locally and in other countries.  When we contribute to the poor and needy, we are not merely giving as though we are not being affected by the good deed.  If our hearts have found or want to discover the “treasure and the pearl,” of today’s Gospel, then we do not need to be persuaded or coaxed into giving and sharing what we have with the millions of people who are in great need.  Our love for God should in conscience oblige us to share generously from our hearts and in the generous sharing, we will surely experience the Spirit of Christ’s joy, peace and happiness that Jesus in today’s Gospel.

       

As I conclude this homily let us recall what I said earlier in this homily.  I said that if we were to recall the happiest moments in our lives, we cannot run away from the truth that they were “happy” and “fulfilling” only because we were able to be humble, selfless, caring, generous and serving the needs of someone or showing care and compassion to someone who was suffering and in pain.

If we ponder more deeply on the lives of Albert and Rosalind or Maria their daughter who suffered so much and died such a peaceful and saintly life, or the conversion story of St Augustine, we can say that all of them had the “treasure and pearl” in their hearts because they were willing to “let go” and be detached from everything that they treasured most in their lives so that they could love God wholeheartedly and trust Him totally regardless of their trials in life and challenges that they had to face.  You and I are called to do the same, but “Are we willing to search and dig deeper into our hearts to find the treasure and the pearl?”

The good news is that God does not expect us to take big leaps, but little steps . . . realistic steps . . . perhaps, three steps forward and one step backward or for some of us even three steps forward and two steps backward . . . in so trying we have at least progressed a little . . . It is the trying that matters.  And in God’s time, we will one day surely find the “treasure and pearl” of today’s Gospel.  Then our lives will be totally transformed.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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