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Our Lord Jesus Is the ‘Treasure Buried in the Field’

Our Lord Jesus Is the ‘Treasure Buried in the Field’

Rembrandt (attr.), “Parable of the Hidden Treasure,” ca. 1630 (photo: Public Domain)

 

When the man in the parable (Matthew 13:44) found the treasure in the field, he sold everything he had in order to possess that field. What are you holding onto?

Last month, a lucky ticket purchased in California won the highest PowerBall lottery jackpot in history: $2.04 billion. The cash option reduces that amount to “only” $997.6 million, and I suppose taxes will obliterate at least half the prize money. But still, standing at the gas station the other day, going bankrupt while filling up my car, I’m not ashamed to admit that $997.6 million dollars, less taxes and fees, would come in handy right about now.

Having said that, let’s indulge ourselves a little and imagine what we would do with several hundred million dollars in the bank.

First, the obvious things: Quit your job. Buy a new car. Pay off the mortgage. Pay off Mom and Dad’s mortgage. Remodel the house from top to bottom and do all the landscaping. Or heck, just sell and move. Who cares if your mortgage is under water? As a multimillionaire, you can afford to take the loss.

Then you can buy a vacation home, or the biggest flat screen television known to man, or comfy furniture, or fine clothes or all of the above. Or you can go to Williams-Sonoma and blow $20 on a pancake flipper just because you can.

Then, hopefully, your Catholic conscience will bring you back to reality, and generous philanthropy will begin: Start a charitable foundation. Fund the renovation of a center for special-needs children. Anonymously donate to your parish the entire sum needed to build the new school gymnasium and parish center.

Then settle down. Put all the rest into an account yielding enough to live on and start enjoying the free time of the nouveau riche. Paint. Sculpt. Travel. Sail. Become a connoisseur of fine wine. Finally write that novel you’ve been complaining about not having time for. Generously donate time to worthwhile causes.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, ponder for a moment: Why do we think it would so great to win the lottery? We’ve all heard the horror stories and statistics proving that many lottery winners eventually end up right back where they started, or worse. Addiction, divorce, tax trouble, victimization by predatory relatives and “friends” who come out of the woodwork asking for money. Companies that target lottery winners with scams. No wonder about one-third of lottery winners end up bankrupt.

Forget about the lottery for a second, and forget about financial realities like fluctuating or crashing markets that can render a vast fortune worthless. Let’s just say you have several million untouchable dollars in the bank — money that only you know about — and you are able to live comfortably. What would your life be like?

It’s not really the money, is it? It’s what the money represents, and what the money really buys — intangible goods that cannot be brought home in a bag or delivered by a truck. Freedom. Peace of mind. Complete ownership of your time. The ability not to care what anyone says to you or does to you. Nothing can touch you or bother you.

The thing is, as Christians, we already have these intangible goods — in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Paul, writing to the Church in Philippi (3:7-8) said:

 

Those things I used to consider as gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For his sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth.

 

Jesus is the true jackpot, one that will never be taxed away or targeted by scam artists and greedy relatives. He is the true and only treasure, “which neither moths nor rust corrode nor thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). Because of Jesus and his cross, “my interest in this world has been crucified” (Galatians 6:14).

To value Jesus Christ above everything is the essence of the Christian virtue of detachment. If you had a huge financial fortune, you could afford to detach yourself from worldly concerns and you would be impervious to petty attempts to nickel-and-dime you, utterly unconcerned with the exploits of people who used to drive you nuts.

Our spiritual fortune in the Lord is even more beneficial. Father Jacque Philippe writes effectively on this topic in his little book Interior Freedom:

 

Every Christian needs to discover that even in the most unfavorable outward circumstances, we possess within ourselves a space of freedom that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee. Without this discovery we will always be restricted in some way, and will never taste true happiness.

 

This is why people of faith living in conditions of desperate poverty still report being happy, and why people with incredible wealth, but no faith in God, sometimes say their lives are miserable and empty.

According to Father Philippe, a growing sense of internal freedom helps us live to the full now, instead of waiting for everything to be “perfect.” We realize that other people’s faults, annoying as they may be, “do not deprive us of anything.” (Anything eternally important, that is.) “Full inner freedom comes from progressively freeing ourselves from the need for human security through the realization that God alone is our ‘rock.’”

Our Lord Jesus is the “treasure buried in the field,” and through him we should be able to achieve the same spirit of detachment, not only from possessions and material things, but from inner concerns of the heart that we clutch so tightly, some good and some bad: ambitions, habits, preferences, opinions, relationships, desires to get even, jealousies, expectations, careers, hopes and dreams, hobbies, entertainments, political and social causes. Can you honestly say that all those things are like garbage to you compared to your friendship with Jesus?

When the man in the parable (Matthew 13:44) found the treasure in the field, he sold everything he had in order to possess that field.

What are you holding onto?

“O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup. It is you yourself who are my prize.” — Psalm 16

 

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