Sunday, 26 July 2020

Week 17 Sunday (Year A)

Here is another homily/reflection for today ...

These two short parables are almost haikus, that form of Japanese poetry where everything must be said in just three lines, the first of five syllables, the second of seven syllables, and the third of five syllables. It is a strict discipline but I had a go at translating the parables of Jesus into that form. Here they are in English:

Treasure in a field
Found, and once more hidden.
Sell all and then buy.

Merchant seeking pearls
Finds one of great price and goes,
Sells all, and buys it.

I tried it in Italian also where it is more difficult because Italian words, with so many vowels, have many more syllables than English words. Here is my effort:

Compra quel campo
Vendendo tutto che ha
Per il nascosto.

Perla trovata.
E' di grande valore
E vende tutto.

It is a strict discipline but it helps to bring out the essence of the parables which are already so radically trimmed down.

Notice that the gift can either be found by chance, coming as a surprise to the one who finds it, or it can be something long sought after and finally found by someone who has been seeking it, perhaps for a long time.

Notice that the treasure is hidden again until the man has the money to buy the field. The merchant too presumably keeps it to himself that he has found a pearl of great price. So a certain wisdom, not to say shrewdness, is required if the treasure is to be protected. Silence, discretion, patience, reserve ... likewise with the gifts we receive from God, until the moment is right.

In both cases the cost is, in T.S.Eliot's words, 'not less than everything'. If you want this treasure, this pearl of great price, you must be prepared to give up everything else you own. For what would any of us contemplate doing that, even for a moment? But that is the price to be paid. For the most part we want the treasure, of course, but without having to pay the price.

What else need be said? The first reading put with today's gospel tells us that, at least for Solomon, the pearl of great price was wisdom, the gift he needed most for his particular responsibilities.

The second reading spells out the gift we receive 'in Christ' - a call, a justification, a glorification because we have been predestined to belong to him. These words unpack what is contained in the love of God. God's love for us in the first place (the treasure, the pearl), our love for God in return (selling all we have in order to possess the gift).

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