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Fernando Armellini - Sat, Jul 29th 2023



The archaeologist, Howard Carter, remained for some moments stunned, shocked, almost paralyzed when he shone the light of a candle through a hole in the untouched tomb of Tutankhamun. He saw the richest treasure ever discovered. The three friends who were with him insistently questioned him, anxious to know what had bewitched him. He managed to stammer, ‘Wonderful things, wonderful things!’ Were it not for this treasure of Tutankhamen—a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, who died at 19-years-of-age—we would barely remember his name.

Solomon lived in pomp: "I have acquired—he said—silver and gold, the treasure of kings and nations and what most delights people" (Ecl 2:8), but these treasures did not make him famous. ‘Treasure’ is the most recurrent epithet on the lips of lovers. You cannot live without tying your heart to a treasure; not even God can do that; in fact, “he has chosen Israel as his possession" (Ps 135:4). The treasure of the wise is wisdom: "Not worth mentioning are coral and jasper; the price of wisdom is above the biggest pearl. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it; it cannot be valued in pure gold” (Job 28:18-19). The rabbis devoted time and energy to it because it is written, "meditate on it day and night" (Jos 1:8) and commented: ‘Go and look which hour is neither day nor night and consecrate it to other sciences.’

We can also be fooled in choosing our treasure because it is easy to be dazzled and trust what is inconsistent and unreliable. Jesus warns us: "Do not store up treasures for yourself here on earth, where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief comes and steal it. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt6:19-21).

Life is to be invested; we have to choose; we need to wager on a treasure. Which one?

 To internalize the message, we repeat:"Teach us to number our days that we may gain the wisdom of the heart.”

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”


The last years of David’s reign were not peaceful and happy. There were riots, revolts, and attempts to dethrone him. Three of his sons died violently in the intrigues of power. The unrest continued until Solomonseized power. He was not a warrior like his father. There were no enemies to fight; he was a man of peace. He inherited a large kingdom that was to be kept united and ruled with justice and equity. He succeeded.

He was a skilled politician, a great builder, a rich man, but he became famous for his wisdom. In the Old Testament, his name is cited about 300 times, and it means ‘peace,’ ‘prosperity.’ From all over the world, people flocked to Jerusalem to meet and hear him. The most famous visit was that of the Queen of Sheba, who admired his wisdom and exclaimed: "All that I heard in my own land concerning you and your wisdom was true. Fortunate are your servants who are ever in your presence and hear your wisdom. Blessed be Yahweh your God, who has looked kindly on you and has put you on the throne of Israel, he has made you king so that you may dispense justice and righteousness” (1 K 10:6-9).

From where did he derive so much wisdom? Today’s reading tells us. Before starting to govern, Solomon went to the sanctuary of Gibeon to offer sacrifice. During the night, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and asked him to make a wish; whatever he asked for would be granted. He did not ask anything for himself: neither wealth, nor health, nor victory against the enemies (v. 11).

David was young when, at the suggestion of Bathsheba—Uriah's wife, who later became his favorite—he had designated Solomon as his successor. He realized that he was still inexperienced. He knew how easy it was for those in power to be corrupted by the frenzy for power and make mistakes and act unjustly. He asked God for "an understanding mind in governing your people that I may discern between good and evil” (v. 9). He was heard. The Lord granted him a wise and discerning heart as no one has had before him or anyone after him shall ever have (v. 12).

It was the beginning of his fortune: "I will also give you what you have not asked for—the Lord said—both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime” (v. 13). All the other goods came to him from wisdom. The Queen of Sheba, "when she had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food on his table, the residence of his officials, the attendance of his servants and their clothing, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings which he offered at Yahweh’s house, it left her breathless” (1 K 10:4-5).

If we could make a wish before Aladdin's lamp, we probably would not ask for ‘a heart capable of listening to the voice of the Lord.’ We do not have the wisdom of Solomon nor an understanding that the ‘wisdom of God’ requires renouncing good but is the source of all good.


Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. 


It is easy to believe that God exists and that He created the world. It is more difficult to believe in His providence. Despite the seemingly contradictory signs that we see every day, to conclude that he will succeed in his project is hard. The words with which the reading begins are an invitation to hope. Nothing of what happens escapes God; nothing can surprise him. He makes "all work for the good" and the realization of salvation (v. 28).

In the second part of the passage (vv. 29-30), the path's stages leading to salvation are recalled. There is, above all, the eternal predestination: God chooses those who are destined to become his children. Then there is the call: through preaching, the Gospel is proclaimed to those predestined, and the invitation is addressed to accept it. Justification follows the call, that is, the inner transformation that takes place in baptism. Finally, there is glorification, the moment when the new condition of the children of God becomes manifest.

Of this whole process, the moment that leaves us a bit puzzled is the first: predestination. Does it perhaps mean that God chooses some and rejects others? Absolutely not. It means that, even before being called to salvation, all people are the object of God's eternal love. Naturally, only some of them will have the good fortune to come to know the Gospel and be baptized; but God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples: “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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” 


It often happens that archeologists discover under the floors of houses, in boxes or pots fortunes in coin.They were probably placed there by their owners before beating a hasty retreat. In the imminence of war or an enemy’s invasion, everyone tried to hide whatever valuables they had hurriedly and whatever they could not take with them. They hoped to recover them one day as soon as the danger had passed. The real owners often did not come back, and the house was occupied by others who had no suspicion of the wealth that lay beneath their feet.

At the time of Jesus, treasures discovered by accident were fantasized. It was said of poor laborers who, intending to plow another’s field, accidentally struck an obstacle. They bent to check and found a box full of jewelry, gems, or precious stones. The popular imagination loved to while away the time with these dreams of unexpected strokes of luck.

The first parable in today's Gospel (v. 44) takes one of these stories: by pure accident, a man discovers a treasure in the field he is working in. He hides it in another spot, goes to sell everything he has, and buys that field.

Many stopped to quibble over the moral behavior of this man, and the legality of the financial transaction carried out by him. However, this is not the point in question. The commentators were intrigued by the fact that the discovered treasure was hidden again. It seemed illogical and superfluous. This detail is instead precious. There is reason to believe that the poor farmer, attracted by the unmistakable sparkle of a golden object that has emerged from the ground, immediately suspected that, under the clouds, an immense wealth could be hidden. He did not want to lose even a crumb, so he decided to buy the whole field.

We are thus introduced in the parable: the treasure which Jesus speaks about is the kingdom of heaven, the new condition where those who welcome the proposals of the Beatitudes enter. It has a priceless value and is only gradually discovered by those who decide to wager their own lives on it. The fact that this treasure is found by chance indicates its gratuity. God offers it freely to people. It is not a prize for their excellent works.

 This is the assumed behavior in the face of this gift. Whoever finds it should not hesitate, be perplexed or doubt. If they hesitate, they lose precious time; the favorable opportunity may escape them and not return. The decision must be made urgently; the choice cannot be delayed. They cannot miss their appointment with the Lord.

We must invest everything. We are not asked to give up something but to put all our thoughts, attention, interests, and effort into this new project. As also happened with the pearl, the man who found treasure did not simply want it to on-sell, but to keep in place of what up until then had given meaning to his life. The discovery of the Kingdom of God involves a radical change. This is the meaning of the decision to ‘sell everything one has to buy the field.’

 This is what happened to Paul, the Jew and blameless fanatic, who was convinced that the Torah was the treasure that would give him salvation. One day, on his way to Damascus, he met Christ. All those things that he might have considered valuable, he then reckoned as a loss. "But once I found Christ, I have let everything fall away and I now consider all as garbage, if instead, I may gain Christ” (Phi 3:7-8). Such change is a source of surprise, wonder and amazement. Anyone who has not found a similar treasure cannot comprehend or find an explanation that justifies the excitement of life experienced by those who have entered the Kingdom of God.

Whoever has seen the farmer selling everything to buy a field must have thought he was crazy: the barren and rocky land of Palestine does not justify such sacrifice. He alone was aware of the reason for his choice: he was concluding the deal of his life.

 Those who knew Paul—the scrupulous law observing rabbi—and suddenly saw him abandon his security to wager all on a condemned man must have considered him a fool: "Paul, you are mad; your great learning has deranged your mind” (Acts 26:24). Instead, Paul had found the most valuable asset, "Christ crucified! For the Jews a great scandal. And for the Greeks, what nonsense” (1 Cor 1:23).

From his obvious joy, all—the farmer's neighbors and Paul’s co-religionists—should have realized that he was acting with lucidity and for a good reason. Those who knew about the sudden and unexpected treasure could not but have been filled with joy: "My joy overflows" (2 Cor 7:4)—ensures the apostle—"I rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 4:10); "The Kingdom of God is 'joy” (Rom 14:17). In short, whoever observes the radiant face of someone who has found the Kingdom of God would guess that he, like Howard Carter, had received a glimpse of ‘wonderful things.’

The second parable (vv. 15-16) is called the twin of the previous one and contains the same message. It differs in some significant details. First of all, the protagonist is not a poor laborer but a wealthy merchant who travels the world with a specific goal: to find pearls.

 In ancient times, pearls were as valuable as diamonds are now. They were harvested from the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. In the imperial era, they were considered so valuable as to become proverbial. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was worshipped as the goddess of pearls. A much-loved child was called a ‘pearl’; a wise man is said to have a mouth from which pearls came out. The 12 gates of heaven—writes the seer of the Apocalypse—"were twelve pearls; each port is made ??of a single colossal and wonderful pearl” (Rev 21:21). Being considered of great value, Jesus chose them as an image of the priceless treasure he offered: God's Kingdom.

Unlike the farmer who accidentally stumbles on to a treasure, the merchant finds his pearl after exhausting searching. The two discoveries are results of good fortune and commitment. The merchant's behavior is the image of the man who passionately seeks what gives meaning to his life and fills his days with joy. The two parables are complementary: The Kingdom of God, on the one hand, is a free gift from God, and on the other, the fruit of human diligence.

The third parable (vv. 47-50) introduces the theme introduced last Sunday in the wheat and the weeds parable. The image is taken from fishing in the Sea of ??Galilee, where nets were trawled, and the unclean were employed (Lev 11:10-11). On the beach, the fishermen proceeded to sort the catch. Thus—Jesus says—as it happens in the kingdom of heaven.

According to the ancients' view, the sea was the kingdom of evil forces, enemies of life. The mission to ‘fish for people,’ removing them from the power of evil, was given to the disciples. Uncontrollable passions, egoism and greed envelop them like raging waves, which, like a vortex, drag them into the abyss. The kingdom of heaven is a net that pulls them out, lets them breathe, and leads them toward the light, toward salvation.

In this net, not only the good and the capable are welcomed, but everyone, without distinction. The Kingdom of God does not present itself today in a pure state. Within the Christian community, the presence of evil and sin is serenely accepted alongside the good. No one, though impure, must feel left out or be marginalized. This is a time of mercy and the patience of God, who "does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion" (2 P 3:9).

Of course, the time of separation will come, and Matthew, as he usually does, talks about it using the dramatic language of the preachers of his time. He employs images with which the Bible described the destruction of the enemies of the people of Israel (Ezekiel 30:38-39): the righteous shall enter in peace, andthe wicked will be punished in a fiery prison.

In rabbinic literature, this judgment of God is often talked about. It is not to threaten eternal punishment for sinners but to highlight the importance of the present time and the urgency of good decision-making today. Every moment wasted is definitively lost, and mistakes made in this world will have eternal consequences. The possibility of dissipating or squandering our existence by focusing it on a deceitful treasure is anything but remote. However, in the end, the separation will not be between good and bad, but between good and evil. Only the good will enter heaven; all the negativity will be annihilated first by the fire of God’s love.

The discourse of Jesus concludes with the question: "Have you understood" and with the call to the work of the scribe (vv. 51-52). The question is addressed to the disciples, those who have found the treasure and the pearl of great price. The kingdom of heaven they now possess has been prepared through the Old Testament (old things) and realized in Christ (the new stuff). Christians are encouraged to become aware, be well-informed, through the study of the sacred Scriptures, of the immense gift they have received from God.


READ: Those whom God predestined he called and those whom he called he makes righteous, and to those whom he makes righteous, he will give his glory.


REFLECT: God gives us a precious gift—his wisdom and knowledge—to do great things for His greater honor and glory!


PRAY: Let us be convinced that our calling and consecration are not privileges but a challenge to do our ultimate purpose in life.


ACT: St. Augustine said that who we are is God’s gift to us; what we make of ourselves is our gift to God. What kind of gift are we making of ourselves?




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