On the Parable Comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a Treasure and a Pearl.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Parable Comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a Treasure and a Pearl.
Today represent to yourself our Lord in His character of a divine Teacher. Behold Him standing amongst the people, who hang upon His lips, marvelling at His words, while He declares to them the truths of the kingdom of Heaven under the form of appropriate parables. They have already heard the parable of the cockle and the wheat, of the sower and the different seeds, of the grain of mustard-seed and the leaven; now He sets before them the similitude of the hidden treasure and the costly pearl. Listen to His divine utterances and ponder them well:
1st. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found.” (St. Matt. xiii. 44.) According to the explanation given by the Fathers this field is our holy Faith. In this field an inexhaustible treasure is hidden, the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, the abundant merits of the ever-blessed Mother of God, the merits of the saints. And this precious treasure is found by man as it were accidentally; that is to say, the inestimable treasure of Faith becomes ours without any special merit on our part whereby we deserve it, but wholly and solely through the grace of God. To God and to God alone do we owe this gift of faith, as the Apostle says: “By grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works that no man may glory.” (Eph. ii. 8, 9.) Consider this truth attentively, my soul. See how many millions of mankind, Jews and heathen, Turks and worshippers of the sun, yearn to be enlightened by the true light; they desire to see what you see, but the grace to do this is lacking to them. How have you deserved to find this precious treasure? Thank God for this grace; today and many times besides pray for the unhappy heathen; and occasionally offer the holy sacrifice or some act of mortification on their behalf, that it may be granted to them also to find the treasure hidden in the field.
2d. Consider how the treasure hidden in the field may be understood as symbolical of the Religious state. Brother Giles gives this interpretation to the parable. When on one occasion a man asked him whether he would advise him to enter the Order of Friars Minor or lead a devout life in the world, the faithful follower of our Seraphic Father said to him: “My Brother, supposing that a poor man knew of a great treasure that was hidden in a place that belonged to no man in particular, he would assuredly ask counsel of no one in order to assure himself as to whether it would be well for him to dig up that treasure and convey it to his own house. How much the more ought one to make every exertion and lose no time in applying himself to dig up with all his strength and the utmost diligence the celestial treasure which is deposited in Religious Orders and Communities.” Yes, the monastic state is indeed a treasure, but it is a hidden treasure. The world, and all Religious whose hearts cleave to the world, who only look on the surface of things, cannot discern the value of that hidden treasure; they know it not; they are ignorant of its very existence. But those who dig deep, and discover it, taste the sweetness and the peace, the repose, the blessedness of the Religious life in its integrity, and say with Thomas a Kempis: “Thou hast shown mercy, God, beyond all hope to Thy servant, and beyond all my desert bestowed Thy grace and friendship upon me. What return shall I make to Thee for this grace? For it is not granted to all to take on them the monastic life.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 10.) When St. Bernard was quitting his father’s castle with his brothers in order to embrace the Religious state, Guy, the eldest, seeing their youngest brother at play in the courtyard, said to him: “You see this castle and all these lands, my little brother Nivard? Well, all of them will belong exclusively to you.” The boy replied: “What! you are going to take Heaven and leave the earth to me? That seems a very unfair division.” Such was the view a mere child took of your state, and if you, who are a man, one perhaps already advanced in years, have not learnt to appreciate the grace of your vocation, it is greatly to be feared that you have not as yet begun to dig up the treasure hidden in the field. What is the reason of this? The following passage tells you:
3d. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls; who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matt. xiii 45, 46.) Mark this well: The discovery of the pearl of great price was a chance; but the discovery was preceded by diligent search, and in order to gain possession of the treasure he had found, the merchant had to part with much, nay, all that he had. Through the mercy of God after a longer or shorter period of search, or possibly without searching at all, you have found the pearl of great price, the gift of faith, or a vocation to the Religious life. What have you sold in order to make your own this pearl that you have found? what have you given up to become a faithful Christian, a true monk? Have you really parted with all that you possessed? Have you, as St. Gregory asks, renounced all earthly things, all questionable pleasures? Alas! tepid, indolent, indifferent, you have never set yourself to dig up the treasure. For your own interest, for the sake of averting the divine judgments, resolve from this day forward to conquer your sloth. “In my opinion,” writes Brother Giles, “the Order of Friars Minor is indeed instituted by God for the spiritual welfare and for the great edification of the people; but woe to us, brethren, if we are not the Religious that we ought to be.” Alas indeed for us if the words of the author of the Imitation can be applied to us: “Oh, the lukewarmness and negligence of our state, that we so quickly fall away from our former fervor, and are now through sloth and listlessness even weary of living!” Lay this lamentation to heart, and endeavor in future to follow the salutary counsel: “We ought every day to renew our resolution, and rouse ourselves to fervor as if it were the first day of our conversion, saying: Help me, Lord God, in my good resolution and in Thy holy service, and give me grace this very day really and truly to begin; for what I have done hitherto is nothing.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 19.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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