August 1, 2012 - Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church

Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
Psalm 59:2-4, 10-11, 17-18
Matthew 13:44-46

The first parable we have today is about a dishonest person whom we can sympathize with. He finds a treasure, buries it again, and buys the field at a bargain price. He pays for the field, but is buying a treasure. So it is with us. We hope to receive happiness forever with the God who made us. How much is that worth? It is literally a priceless treasure. It is so valuable that no one would sell it because no possession compares. We can have this treasure at a bargain price. Eternal salvation is available, but we only have to pay for the field: a small part of the world. If we have to give up anything in this life, its value is nothing compared to the relationship with God we will gain.

The second parable is different. The sale is honest. There is no bargain. The merchant pays full price for the pearl of great price. He has to sell everything he has in order to buy it, but he does so gladly. Note that Jesus does not say that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl. He says that the Kingdom is like a merchant. Jesus is the merchant. We are the pearl. He is the one who sold everything to buy the pearl of great price. He is the one who can look at our soul and see the intrinsic value that made us worth dying for.

Jeremiah rejoiced when he devoured the words of the Lord. He had joy and happiness of heart. Why? “Because I bore your name, O Lord God of hosts.” But his joy is turned to sorrow again and despair because God is like a treacherous brook that has water one day and no water the next. You go back to the field that you just bought and start digging, but where is the treasure? It seems like we cannot count on God, but actually he is teaching us to count on him. When we first realize that God is our treasure, he seems within reach. If not, we would never rejoice. But when we reach out to grasp him, we realize that he is farther away than he seemed. He is leading us into deeper and deeper understanding of the value of the treasure. We cannot count on God to be where we want him to be, but we can count on him to be where we need him.