“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
This passage calls to mind so many Church treasures, lovingly hidden away from the iconoclasts of past and present. In England when both Henry VIII and Bloody Elizabeth I were sacking and looting the Church of Her treasures, brave souls buried in churchyard, under floors and sunk in lakes monuments and tokens of their Catholic Faith. Faithful priests divested the churches of their “holy hardware” – chalices, vestments, carved wood and stone – to faithful laity to keep in surety the heirlooms of their ancient worship; keeping them out of the hands of the destroyers. When Good Queen Mary assumed the throne, many of these items were restored to their proper uses; but after Elizabeth, many of them lay hidden all these years. Some are only recently, with modern technology, being discovered by treasure hunters. Sadly, they are thought of now as mere museum pieces – the faith has slept in England and elsewhere to the extent that the Church no longer has the desire to recover Her treasures.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like these hidden relics of our Faith. The irony is that the treasure of our Faith – even though we may seek it with our whole being – is found quite by accident and the finding of it costs us nothing. Not a single Christian has ever expended anything in the procurement of their Salvation, and none of us has done anything to create the splendour of Heaven – not even laid a single translucent gold paver in its roads. God offers us the gift of Salvation and Heaven’s bliss not because we somehow earn it, but because He loves us. The hidden treasure and the pearl are revealed to us by God’s infinitely loving free-will. Once then it is revealed to us, it is obligatory that we, if we wish to grasp this treasure, spare nothing to obtain it.
In our world, we constantly encountering new alternative and surprising opinions, and there are so many glittering alternatives to the hidden treasure of God. We must always keep in mind that we are creatures of simple passions. We find ourselves sometimes wanting something so badly that we will risk friends, family, health anything to obtain it. When I was a boy I wanted a BMX bike so badly that it kept me up at night, I saved every penny and I sought this treasure with tears from my parents. But I never got it. The desire for this bike (and BMX is still pretty cool), and the desire for all other worldly stuff comes freely unbidden to us and, in this, they are like the longing for the courts of the Lord. As my youthful desire for BMX was initiated by there actually being a bike out there for me to want, the desire for Heaven is initiated in us by God – God whispers to each of us “Come unto me!” Because of how He made us, it is as natural to desire God as it is to desire lunch or a nap after lunch or even BMX.
The two desires diverge, however, in that we tend to obsess much more easily over our worldly desires – the ones we only experience with our senses – than over our heavenly desires which, while they can be associated with our senses (as we experience them here at Mass), tap into our spiritual capacity which is a capacity and God given gift to each of us, that very unlike our creaturely desires (also a gift from God), have an abyss of potential.
The words of this hymn capture the mystery as best it can be captured. Each of us must discover what it is to risk everything for Christ, bringing out both old and new treasures to obtain the pearl of great price.