Treasures New and Old
Ordinary 17 Year A
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Matthew 13: 44 — 52
This passage is our third and final section in this chapter of parables Jesus used on this occasion to convey His intimations about the kingdom to those who were willing to listen. They are straightforward and we will treat them briefly.
Some Reflections on the Text
“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.
The Kingdom of Heaven (that is, the Rule of God) is like the situation in which a labourer, ploughing his employer’s field, by chance discovers, either a hidden treasure chest, or a mine of valuable metal. Filled with joy he does not hesitate to sell everything he owns to buy the field. (The use of parables permits a main line of argument to be presented without any reference to ethical side-issues.)
Verses 45 and 46
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.
Likewise a well-to-do merchant, always on the lookout for quality pearls, comes across one the like of which he had not seen before. He, also, does not hesitate to sell everything he owns in order to purchase this rare find.
We notice immediately what our Lord draws attention to in the minds of his disciples:
• Whether they stumbled across the treasure “by accident” or whether it was the result of intensive searching, both men discovered something waiting to be found.
• They thought nothing of giving up everything to take possession of the newfound treasure; in fact they did so with great joy.
• For Jesus, those who recognise what they have come across when they discover the kingdom of God are indeed richly blessed. They will, His teaching demonstrates, joyfully consider it to be the most precious of gifts from God and will let nothing stand in the way of attaining it and remaining a loyal member.
Verses 47 and 48
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.
As Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is also like a net which, when let down into the lake, catches all kinds of fish and other objects. When it is full, the fishermen drag it into shore. The fish suitable for eating are kept, and everything else is thrown back into the water. The word “bad” here does not stand for “morally bad”. It refers only to fish not suitable for eating. Our Lord, as we have previously observed, embodies many of his key ideas in parables the meaning of which His disciples have always had to keep pondering. In this case Jesus gives an explanation, which is, in fact, similar to that of the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Verses 49 and 50
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.
So, “at the end of the age,” the angels will come and separate the righteous from the wicked who are then thrown “into the fiery furnace”. Historically, the traditional Church has taken these words seriously. But in our times, many people are uncomfortable with such expressions and pronounced imagery, which are therefore often by-passed, or given little attention. Others go the opposite way, and exaggerate passages such as this, but out of context, thus reaching somewhat forced conclusions. In fact some other groups of Christians have become very vocal about certain Scriptures, yet commonly stay within a narrow range of Biblical material. This practice of restricted selection of Scriptures can lead to a wide range of distorted presentations of our Lord’s teaching which can weaken the emphasis He gave on listening to and obeying everything He taught.
Jesus, in these two verses (49 and 50) is making a clear distinction between:
the righteous: who listen to and seek to understand EVERYTHING
He has taught, and then put it into practice; in other words, to obey Him; and
the wicked: who ignore Him, or take what He has taught and bend
it to what they want and use it to their own advantage.
Our Lord declares that the wicked will burn for this in “the fiery furnace”.
This parable and its explanation is not just a repetition of the previous teaching such as that found in the wheat and tares parable, to balance St. Matthew’s Gospel structure. It underpins the whole sequence of teaching. And this is the point, made by several commentators. It is not the disciples who are to take possession of the Kingdom, by force or any other means. Nor are they to be preoccupied with roping in others even if it is for God’s Kingdom. Rather it is they who must first surrender everything and be possessed by no less than the King Himself. That is the key to the evangelistic teaching of Jesus, which is to govern how we spread His message.
Verses 51 and 52
“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.”
So, Jesus asked His disciples a very straightforward question: “Have you understood all these things?”
They answered, “Yes”. In His rabbinic style Jesus rounds off the whole sequence of parables with yet another:
“Every teacher of Sacred Scripture, then, whose learning is about the
kingdom of heaven must be like the head of a household, who knows
how to bring both new and old things out of his treasure house”.
Those who have surrendered all and have thereby entered into the service of Jesus are treated as members of His Household, and have unimpeded access to all the Father has shared with Him. It is then that they will be able to share their understanding of the mysteries of God with those who, in turn, listen to their instruction. Thus, their membership of the Lord’s family will become their spiritual power-base in future evangelisation.
Here Jesus confirms their special gift of understanding; not that they will always have instant understanding in a flash. Often, that will take time. Jesus is endorsing the fact that having truly become His disciples, the gift of spiritual understanding will follow as surely as day follows night, even if it is a long Arctic night, which must first be endured.
Thus we learn that our Lord’s disciples (specifically the twelve Apostles) did not become disciples merely because they first had understanding. Rather, because they took the step of faith and became His devoted disciples, they received the spiritual capacity to ponder and understand spiritual treasures graciously shared with and revealed to them. And so it is with those to whom they passed on the gift of the Faith, to successive generations. Yes — and that includes us!
Yet again, our Lord in His final parable in this series (verse 52), affirms all of revelation in the Old Testament. As His disciples, down the ages, explain His teaching, they will find it natural also to draw on the “old revelation” (meaning venerable: what has come before) as Jesus did Himself. This will indeed be fulfilled for them and become incomparable treasure, worthy of any sacrifice they may be called upon to make.
The teaching of great leaders of the Church in the middle ages is especially helpful to us.
Prayer of St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. C.E. 1033 — 1109
Be it mine to look up to Thy light, even from afar, even from the depths.
Teach me to seek Thee and reveal Thyself to me when I seek Thee,
for I cannot seek Thee except Thou teach me, nor find
Thee except Thou reveal Thyself. Let me seek Thee in longing,
let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love and love
Thee in finding. Lord I acknowledge and thank Thee that Thou hast
created me in this Thine image, in order that I may be mindful of
Thee, conceive of Thee and love Thee. But that image has been so
consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of
wrong doing that it cannot achieve that for which it was created except
Thou renew it and create it anew.
I do not endeavour, Lord, to penetrate Thy heights, for in no wise
do I compare my understanding with Thine; but I long to understand
in some degree Thy Truth which my heart believes and loves.
For, I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe —
that unless I believe, I shall not understand. Amen.
If this is your prayer, may it be answered generously.
Blessed be He Who graciously answers the prayers of
those who call upon Him with all their heart!
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Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
Treasures New and Old
Ordinary 17 Year A St. Matthew 13: 44 — 52
1. The short little parables of treasure in the field and the precious pearl are used
Jesus thus holds up to us these parables as a means whereby we can check if
— how much of our free time we give Him;
— how much we pray for the extension of the Christian faith in
— how much effort we make to ponder His teaching and seek to
This is not, as we often say, to send us on a guilt trip, but to spur us on to
2. Out of the blue, again, Jesus gives us a “flash view” of the end time. It is a
A practical way some Christians literally keep His words “to hand,” is to
What a joy it is to surround ourselves with God’s Holy Word. If it was good
We have said — and will say often, that the Messiah is the Torah, the Word
3. This short reading closes with a beautiful high-point, verse 52, to which,
Every one of you who has applied yourself to listening to my words,
You are like the Head of the Household in which, spiritually, you
There, you learn to bring out of my vast storeroom under the guidance
And these treasures are all the more precious because there
– – – – – – -
Let us pray for one another to open the ears and eyes of our heart and remain closely
Matthew 13: 44 — 52
Ordinary 17 Year A
44 23 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching
46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into
48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put
49 Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go
50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will
51 “Do you understand 25 all these things?” They answered,
52 26 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been
23 [44-50] The first two of the last three parables of the discourse have the same point. The person who finds a buried treasure and the merchant who finds a pearl of great price sell all that they have to acquire these finds; similarly, the one who understands the supreme value of the kingdom gives up whatever he must to obtain it. The joy with which this is done is made explicit in the first parable, but it may be presumed in the second also. The concluding parable of the fishnet resembles the explanation of the parable of the weeds with its stress upon the final exclusion of evil persons from the kingdom.
24  In the unsettled conditions of Palestine in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.
25  Matthew typically speaks of the understanding of the disciples.
26  Since Matthew tends to identify the disciples and the Twelve (see the note on ⇒ Matthew 10:1), this saying about the Christian scribe cannot be taken as applicable to all who accept the message of Jesus. While the Twelve are in many ways representative of all who believe in him, they are also distinguished from them in certain respects. The church of Matthew has leaders among whom are a group designated as “scribes” (⇒ Matthew 23:34). Like the scribes of Israel, they are teachers. It is the Twelve and these their later counterparts to whom this verse applies. The scribe . . . instructed in the kingdom of heaven knows both the teaching of Jesus (the new) and the law and prophets (the old) and provides in his own teaching both the new and the old as interpreted and fulfilled by the new. On the translation head of a household (for the same Greek word translated householder in ⇒ Matthew 13:27), see the note on ⇒ Matthew 24:45-51.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition