SFX Bulletin, 27 July 2014: Many of us are familiar with Jesus’ parables on the treasure hidden in a field and the fine pearl of great value. Both the treasure and the pearl symbolize the “Kingdom of Heaven” as Jesus tells us (v.44&45). In both parables, the “someone” and the “merchant” “sells everything he owns” just to own the treasure and the pearl. The hierarchy of the church – bishops, priests and deacons – and those who have consecrated their lives to the faith – represent this “someone” and “merchant”. They, “by the self-abnegation of a holy life” (Lumen Gentium 36), become radical followers of Jesus – the “treasure” and “fine pearl” they have been seeking. In Jesus, they have found the “happiness” (cf. Mt. 13:44) that surpasses everything else.
Everyone’s happiness is intimately linked to a “holy life” – doing good and avoiding evil. The Psalmist today sings, “Lord, how I love your law!”. Guided by divine wisdom, he finds the power for good and to shun evil.
This divine wisdom to grow in holiness has been given to all of us in baptism. Baptism has been called “the bath of enlightenment” where we receive “the true light” (Jn.1:9). In a homily, 4th century Church Father, St.Gregory of Nazianzus, waxed lyrical about this baptismal gift, “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing,
enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship”.
Transformed in baptism, the Church exhorts us to contemplate and cherish this gift. In fact, signing ourselves with Holy Water is a re-commitment to our baptismal promise to be holy as Jesus is holy. Like young King Solomon, we must not tire of asking God to guide us in holiness by giving us “a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil…” (v.9).
Commenting on King Solomon’s choice, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, said, “… ‘an understanding heart’…What do these words mean? We know that the ‘heart’ in the Bible does not only indicate a part of the body, but also the centre of the person, the seat of his intentions and opinions. We might say: the conscience. Thus an ‘understanding heart’ means a conscience that knows how to listen, that is sensitive to the voice of truth and for this reason can discern right from wrong” (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 24 July 2011).
Modern culture has lured many into thinking that everything is relative and that absolute truths or absolute moral norms do not exist. However, there are “intrinsically evil acts…that are always seriously wrong” (Veritatis Splendour n.80). A blunted conscience can lead us away from holiness as our Holy Father, Pope Francis warned in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is…a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience…. there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it…That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit…” (EG2).
Jesus asks for our unreserved faith and trust in God’s love and care – that “God co-operates with all those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). He has given us the Eucharist as a means to love as he loves. May we contemplate on this treasure and in turn, desire to be his radiance to those looking for light.