Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Find. Hide. Sell. Buy.

"Jesus said to the crowds: 'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.'"
(Matthew 13:44)

I relate most to this first parable of today's Gospel reading when I 'stumbled' upon God's call for me to the priestly vocation during a diocesan vocation retreat 4 years ago. I remember staring at my 'treasure' in disbelief and shock, yet at the same time feeling as if the missing part of my life that I have been unconsciously seeking for all my life has finally been found. The joy was so great that till today, I still cannot believe how within the span of those 3 days of retreat, I was crazy enough to make that conscious decision to give up the treasure I thought I had found in the girl of my dreams, and to 'sell' away every dream and plan of a marriage with her, just to obtain the newfound treasure that God revealed to me.

But as I reflected upon the above verse again, what struck me was why didn't the guy just keep the treasure instead of having to hide it back in the field, then go through all that trouble selling everything in order to buy that field. Then the Lord revealed His hidden answer: that treasure would not be treasure if it weren't hidden in the field (the whole purpose of calling something a treasure, no matter what it may be, suggests that it has to be precious and hidden away to be found). Similarly, heat would not be heat if not hidden in fire; love would not be love if not hidden in a relationship; a gift would not be a gift if not hidden in the giver; and the kingdom of heaven would not be so if not hidden in God Himself. In order words, a treasure won't make sense without the field; heat without fire; love without a relationship; a gift without a giver; the kingdom of heaven without God; and in my case, my priestly vocation, or any other vocation of marriage or singlehood for that matter, will not make sense without the One who calls us to our personal vocation - Christ Himself.

Slowly, I realise how this explains why many times over the last 2 years of seminary formation, there are times I start to lose the 'thrill of the chase' (or in this case the 'thrill of finding treasure'). I start to gaze upon other fields and wonder if the treasure hidden in those fields would be even better. The same can be said for married couples who suddenly seem to lose their flaming passions for each other which were once evident in their courtship days, only to be reduced to a whimpering flame or even just a puft of smoke as the years go by. Or in the case of getting involved in a new minstry in church, charged with all the burning enthusiasm of going all out to serve the people of God, only to eventually lose steam, interest and worse, faith. During these moments, we begin to seek other fields for other hidden treasures, seeking one worldly field after another, finding AND losing one worldly treasure after another, to the point that we keep repeating this vicious cycle throughout our lives without realising that the only treasure that can truly satisfy us, is the one God gives us, but only if we know what's the best thing to do with it.

Whenever we think we have found the treasure of our life - the dream career, the dream partner, the dream church ministry, and even the well-discerned vocation in life - even if it were really true that God led us to finding these treasures, and that they were truly meant for us, it is when we fail to hide it back in the field and go through the ardous process of selling everything to buy that field, that the treasure eventually begins to lose its meaning, its purpose, and even its attraction. Whenever we merely grab our treasure upon finding it, clinging on to it in tight possession and even obsession, the treasure slowly becomes the 'curse' on our lives, like the treasure Indiana Jones grabs which then triggers the collapse of the whole temple, except that this happens very gradually and unnoticeably in our lives, until we realise it is too late to run.

Instead, today's Gospel reading challenges us to place our God-given-and-revealed treasure back into the Giver's hands, letting God be the one to safeguard it while we go through the long, painful, but worthwhile process of 'selling' away or purifying our impure motives, our mistaken preconceptions, our harmful attitudes, our painful past, our sinful inclinations etc - whatever that obstructs us from truly, personally and intimately knowing our True Giver, so that we may eventually embrace the Giver of our life, and in turn embrace the Gift or Treasure hidden in the Giver. Only then may we uncover the true joy of the Gift in and through our Giver, uncover the true joy of whichever vocation, spouse, career, church ministry, mission that God reveals to us in His time.

Indeed, Christ is not only the One who contains our treasure, reveals our treasure, and safeguards our treasure. Ultimately, He is the KEY to unlocking our treasure, the KEY to finding joy through our gifts, joy through our ministries, joy through our relationships, and joy through our life's vocation.

And each day as I remind myself to place my vocation in His hands, and manage to 'sell away' even just a tiny portion of what I cling on to that is not of Him, I 'gain' a little more of Him, who then so generously and lovingly grants me a moment of that Kingdom experience of His treasure, to the point that I not only desire to obtain the treasure, but begin to understand why I would want the whole field as well - why all I really want and need is Christ, my beloved Giver.

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