Today’s Gospel has three general themes represented by parables. The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price are dramatic portrayals of the total offering of self, once we discover what our mission is.
The parable of the dragnet repeats a theme from last week’s Gospel—that there will be a day of reckoning when what is good will be rewarded, and what is bad will be made to account. As we put it last week, “May hustiya ang Diyos.”
Then there is the scribe, who, after being “instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” is like the head of the household who brings out the new and the old.
Let us reflect on the first and the last themes using a framework borrowed from St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast day we celebrate tomorrow.
Fr. John English, S.J., one of the experts on Ignatian spirituality, writes that “Freedom is one of the fundamental graces of the Spiritual Exercises and it leads to the making of an election (a decision or choice—my note) and to union with God.”
The Spiritual Exercises lead us through an experience that begins “with the end in mind,” i.e., our destiny is union with God. From this we go through a process of self-awareness and self-acceptance of our life and of the gracious and merciful love of God.
The next part, the Second Week, makes us focus on the person of Christ with the central grace “to see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.”
This body of meditations, contemplations and reflections on the life of Christ and on our interior movements, desires and passions, become the process and context in which we make the election.
The election is the freedom to commit, to follow Christ in a way of life proper to our calling and mission.
This is further deepened in the third part, the Third Week, where the passion and Crucifixion of Christ is posed as the framework of our call and mission. As Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J. put it, “To know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was … to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes.”
This context of the Cross leads to an even greater freedom to be in perfect union with God, expressed in the prayer of the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love: “… all things I have and all that I am, you have given to me, to you I return them that you may dispose of me wholly according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich, I ask for nothing more.”
This is the freedom to offer ourselves totally to God, a freedom that comes from discovering our treasure, our pearl of great price in the love of God— the love that blessed us with life and graciously sustains us always, but above all the love that “chose us because we are sinners.”
This is the freedom that comes from a deep sense of humility; genuine humility that leads to gratitude. This humility is expressed succinctly in the prayer: “All things I have and all that I am, you have given all to me.”
From this flows the gratitude of self-giving, “to you I return them that you may dispose of me wholly according to your will.” Commitment to God’s mission, to what he wants us to do, and giving back everything to do it—this is the freedom that comes from humility and gratitude.
The total union with God is when we give back everything and become part of Christ’s mission “to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes.” And yes, be part of this mission knowing we are sinners called to be a companion of Christ.
The second point for reflection is the end of the Gospel, “the scribe instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven.” William Barclay, in his commentary, gives insights:
“For it means that Jesus never desired or intended that any man should forget all he knew when he came to him; but that he should see his knowledge in a new light and use it in a new service. When he does that, what he knew before becomes a greater treasure than ever it was.
“Every man comes to Jesus Christ with some gift and with some ability. Jesus does not ask that he should give up his gift. So many people think that when a man declares for Christ he must give things up and concentrate upon the so-called religious things. But a scholar does not give up his scholarship when he becomes a Christian; rather, he uses it for Christ.
“A businessman need not give up his business, rather he should run it as a Christian would. One who can sing or dance or act or paint, need not give up his art, but must use his art as a Christian would. The sportsman need not give up his sport, but must play as a Christian would.
“Jesus did not come to empty life but to fill it, not to impoverish life but to enrich it. Here we see Jesus telling men not to abandon their gifts, but to use them even more wonderfully in the light of the knowledge which he has given them.”
There is an interesting prescription that Ignatius gives about those wanting to be Jesuits. He says they should be asked if they have holy desires. If they respond in the negative, they are to be asked if they have the desire to desire holy desires.
Ignatius’ process of formation leads to discovering what God calls us to, his mission for us, what he wants us to do. This is the great treasure, the pearl of great price, when once discovered, we give up everything.
This is not a giving up of deprivation, but a giving back in freedom—the freedom to dedicate, to reorient everything we have and are to God’s will.
“Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich, I ask for nothing more”—the perfect union with God when, in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “God alone suffices.”—CONTRIBUTED