In the Gospel Jesus compared a healthy religious life to a chest of treasures. He said that if one accidentally came upon a treasure buried in a field, he would go, sell all he had to buy that field.
The meaning of the parable is quite clear. Jesus is telling us that we should give up all our selfish interests in exchange for gaining a healthy religious life.
One fresh idea in this parable that just came to me is that Jesus did not have the man come upon a weighty bar of gold that he could exchange for a fixed cash sum. No, he came upon a treasure chest that contained things of great value.
The completeness of that treasure puts me in mind of the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, “You must be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.” (Some English translations have Jesus saying, “You must be perfect,” but St. Matthew actually quoted Jesus as saying, “You must be complete.”) Christianity, like love in an old song, is a “many splendored thing.”
I’ve been retired for four years, and the free time has led me into the richness of Christianity through its history. Going from century to century I was making my way toward the Protestant Reformation when I came on a Catholic Reformation that preceded Luther’s more famous one.
A generation before Luther St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher and Erasmus dug deeply into the treasure of Christianity. They produced accurate translations of the Gospels, but they dug into other forms of ancient wisdom. The Italian scholar Petrarch had scoured Europe’s monasteries and libraries, bringing to light the manuscripts of the great thinkers of the early Church as well as those the great minds of Greece and Rome. Those ancients had come to see that there was only one God, and that God had made us to pursue goodness, justice and beauty. Petrarch said there is a marvelous unity between such teachings and the Christian message.
While Luther, disappointed with the way Catholicism had become side-tracked into religious ceremonies and penances, abandoned the Mass and our finest traditions. Like the expression goes: “He through out the baby with the bath water.” But the members of the Catholic reform turned to enriching Catholicism with works on ethics, and to finding God in nature. Those are the kind of contents that made the treasure hidden in a field so valuable.