Parables About The Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:44-53)
Jesus said to the crowds, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The one who finds it buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it”
Jesus said to his disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish in buckets, but throw the worthless ones away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth”.
Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?”. “Yes”, they answered. So He said to them, “You will see that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom is like a householder who can produce from his store things both new and old”. When Jesus had finished these parables, He left the place.
Today, Matthew places three parables about the Kingdom of Heaven for us to ponder over. The announcement of the Kingdom is of essence in Jesus’ preaching and in the hopes of the chosen people. But it is evident the nature of this Kingdom is not understood by the majority. The Sanhedrin who condemned him to death did not understand it, nor did Pontius Pilate or Herod, and initially, not even his disciples understood it.
We can find only in the good thief, hung in a cross along with him, the comprehension Jesus requests when he says: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Both had been accused as criminals and were about to die; but, because of an unknown reason, the good thief recognizes Jesus as the King of a Kingdom that will come after that terrible death. It could only be a spiritual Kingdom.
In his first preaching, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom as of a hidden treasure, the finding of which causes the finder a great joy and impels him to buy the field to be able to enjoy it forever: “and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field” (Matthew 13:44). But, at the same time, to reach the Kingdom it is necessary to look for it with yearning and effort, to the point of selling all one may have: “Once he has found one of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it” (Matthew 13:46). “What is He referring to when He says seek and he who seeks, finds? I daresay He is referring to the pearls and to the pearl, pearl that acquires he who has given up everything and has accepted to lose everything”.
The Kingdom is peace, justice and liberty. To reach it is, at the same time, a gift from God and a human responsibility. In front of the greatness of this divine gift we realize the imperfection and instability of our own efforts, quite often destroyed by our sins, our wars and our malice that looks insurmountable. Nevertheless, we must have confidence, because what looks impossible for man is more than possible for God.
This Gospel is a vital call to conversion. Jesus does not spare us the hard reality: “The angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace” (Matthew 13:49-50). The warning is quite clear. We just cannot take it easy and go to asleep!
Now, it is our turn to freely choose: we either seek God and make goodness a part of our life, or we prefer to stand on the precipice of death. Or with Christ or against him. To convert ourselves means, in this case, to freely opt to become one of the upright ones and live a life worthy of his sons. However, within us we have the experience of sin: we realize the good we should do but we do the evil, instead; what do we do to provide our lives with a sense of true unity? We, alone, cannot do much. Only if we place ourselves in God’s hands shall we be able to attain the goodness and be counted amongst the upright ones.
“Because we know not when our Judge shall appear, so we should live every day as if it were our last” (St. Jerome). These words are a call to live with intensity and responsibility our Christianity. It is not a matter of being afraid, but of living in the hope this is a time of grace, praise and glory.
Christ shows us the only way to our own glorification. Christ is the only way to heaven; therefore, our salvation, our happiness and whatever we can imagine happens through Him. And if we have everything in Christ, we can hardly refrain from loving the Church, that shows him to us and is its mystic body. Against purely human visions of this reality we have to recuperate the divine-spiritual vision: nothing bigger than Christ and the fulfillment of his will!
– – – reflection by Fr. Enric CASES i Martin and Fr. Ferran JARABO i Carbonell