My Treasure, My All

Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

One of the benefits of living in community is sharing the findings of the day during the evening meal. Usually, this exchange takes place against the backdrop of zillions of birds singing Vespers, non-stop, while the warm western sun quietly steals away through the trees. The topics vary and can be anything from O. Henry’s Last Leaf to the recipe for making English hobnobs, a sweet biscuit. Furthermore, the discussions often find us scurrying to the library in search of expanded commentaries.

Recently, the conversation led us into a discussion on The Pearl of Great Price. In this reflection, I would like to share with the reader some of my own findings on the deeper meaning of this story. First of all, the commentaries point out that this account is actually a twin to The Treasure Hidden in a Field, a topic I personally find more inviting.

They Hid It Again

In both stories, one would expect the finder to come upon the pearl, or treasure, after a long and toilsome struggle. In the pearl story, the merchant, not really an expert in pearls, did search for pearls and found one. However, the laborer in the treasure story did not struggle, but stumbled upon the prize. In both events, the merchant and the laborer are surprised. In the treasure story, the worker was plowing in the field and unexpectedly came upon the treasure buried in a hole. We do not know what the treasure was, or who buried it. That is left to the contemplative to ponder. We only know that he or she hid it again and purchased the whole field. Hiding it was a security measure.

If we connect this story with another Gospel account, we can surmise that the finder comes upon his or her own heart, since where one’s treasure is, there also is one’s heart. This means that, in finding the treasure, we find ourselves, and probably find the meaning of our lives. Furthermore, what we find may well be a surprise, something quite unexpected. The treasure could even be a new insight on how to look at life. Since it is possible that any daily event can hold the treasure, it behooves us to live with our eyes open. Even darkness, trials, disappointment and tears are capable of hiding the treasure.

There is great joy in finding the treasure, a joy that surpasses all measure. The joy carries the finder away and makes unreserved surrender not only possible but almost easy. “All else seems valueless compared with its surpassing worth. No price is too great to pay.”* This joyful discovery is overpowering and fills the heart with gladness. Furthermore, such a finding brings a strength that no darkness or disappointment is able to overcome.

In the face of such overpowering joy, it seems strange that one could forget this moment, or the treasure. Still, it does happen. The question is how to prevent this forgetting. In other words, how do we attend the treasure, and how do we guard it? On this topic, it would appear that there are simple means available. During the day, it is worthwhile to simply recall the treasure that is ours, and again at night before we sleep. There is power in recall. Some people may choose to have a symbol in their home or office, or to wear something on their person.

Still, what are we to do if we feel that we have not yet found the treasure? The truth is that, possibly at some moment, we did find the treasure but later were asked to give it away for a nobler pursuit. The parable hints at this. Then, too, it would appear that the treasure is attached to our heart’s desire. It seems like we always come back to this. We go from desire to desire. The most we can do is honor and love the desire that is ours at the moment. In reality, true desires never fail us. Along this line, St. Therese of Lisieux alludes to the fact that God never gives us a desire that God does not intend to fulfill.

What Other Desire

So, what is the desire God has given me at this moment, the desire that will be realized in my life? My feeling is that it is important to probe this desire in depth, and to ask further what other desire may be at the center. From my own experience, and from what others have shared, it seems like most people would give their all just to have the felt-experience, and the assurance, that they are both known by and important to a personal God, who continues to be their life-long Quest. Truly, a discovery like this would be an overwhelming experience, and all else would be valueless compared with such a treasure.

*In part, this article is based on The Parables of Jesus by Joachim Jeremias, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963), pages 198-201.