Commentary on the Gospel of
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Reflecting on a saint who “out of joy” sold all he had and bought “that field” which is like the kingdom of heaven, with thanks to James Martin S.J.'s “My Life With the Saints.”
I was walking past the Temple of Minerva in central Assisi when I saw my friend Francisco standing stark naked in front of the bishop and his family. He was arguing loudly with his father, a wealthy cloth merchant.
I’d heard that Francisco had undergone a radical conversion but I hadn’t seen him since he mortified his parents by dressing in rags, begging for food and publicly kissing a leper.
Another friend filled me in on what was happening.
Now Francisco’s father had accused him of stealing something from his storehouse to rebuild a church and wanted the bishop to intervene. When the bishop told Francisco to return what he had taken, Francisco tore his clothes off since they too had come from his father.
I watched the bishop wrapping Francisco in his cope, ending the public spectacle. But Francisco became a wandering preacher and never returned to his family.
Although some people thought he was crazy, legends spread about his love for people, animals and the earth itself. He attracted followers who joined him in abandoning what they had to pursue the Kingdom of heaven. Eventually the pope allowed Francisco to form a religious order.
When Francisco returned to Assisi towards the end of his life, he lived in poverty and prayed constantly. Now our town is building a magnificent church in his honor that he probably would have disdained.
Meanwhile my memories of the mature Francisco haunt me. Although he had given up everything, he was so much more joyful than when we were carousing through Assisi. What can we ordinary people learn from him?
I’ll never give up my comfortable life but I’m happiest when I’m sharing my good fortune with others. I’ll leave my possessions behind when I die anyhow so why not start now? Sometimes I give money to a beggar who will likely waste my gift on cheap wine. But I feel Francisco smiling at my seemingly foolish gesture. I try to be kind to others even when I don’t feel like it.
I think Francisco sold his life for a whole field of buried treasure while mine is a small garden plot. But it’s better than nothing.