LECTIO DIVINA: XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.
With hearts well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
St. Augustine comments on this text in the De Disciplina Christiana in the following manner: “The Sacred Scriptures are an immense treasure that contains in itself many marvelous precepts, like many gems and precious necklaces and fine vases of good metal. But who is capable to examine such immense treasure, to make use of it and come to discover everything it contains? When the Lord placed this parable in his Gospel and said: The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure found in the field, so that no one may believe himself incapable to discover it, he immediately added another comparison saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, and when he found one of great price, he sold all he had and bought it, so that if you are lazy to search for the treasure, you will not be the one to carry a pearl under your tongue, and then walk securely wherever you wish” (disc. chr. 2).
On the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, St. Augustine comments in the new Erfurt sermons: “Therefore, while there is time, buy the field with the treasure, buy the incorruptible pearl, of perpetual splendor: what I speak of is the kingdom of heaven, preached, according to the Gospel, by the mouth of the Lord. Our fathers bought it and still they left us something also to buy. The buyer conserves it whole for whoever buys it; alternately every one buys it, and each one possesses it whole. Let not the worry on the price torture you, since it is not arranged in such a way that the richer can obtain it easily while the poor cannot grab it; as much as one has, that much will it cost. He received the half of the superrich Zacchaeus’ fortune, he did not exclude the nets of the fisherman, he also accepted the coins of a certain wretched widow and on weighing them in the balance of charity, he found them heavier than the many gifts of many rich persons. Neither must you separate from this barter the cup of cold water, where the love of the buyer boils. Even if perhaps the means fail, do not despair; love and you will buy it. The pious desires are certainly the great resources of the indigent. Consequently, what is the more valuable peace and destination, than the eternal peace toward which we tend through all forms of fatigue?” (s. 350E, 5= s. Erfurt 3, 5).
On the parable of the pearl of great price, St. Augustine comments: The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. Upon finding one of great value, he went off to sell all that he had and bought it. The question asked is why does the story pass from the plural to the singular; the merchant was in search for fine pearls, and he found one of great value, and he sells all he possessed to buy it. It can be that someone is looking for good men with whom he can spend life in a laudable form and he finds someone who surpasses all of them, one who is sinless, mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. Or it could also be that someone goes in search of commandments, to observe them and maintain good conduct with fellowmen, and he finds that love of neighbor, which in the words of the Apostle, by itself sums up all the commandments. Because “You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness and any other commandment” are like pearls that are all contained in this one phrase: Love your neighbor as yourself. Or perhaps someone is in search of good concepts and finds one that contains them all: the Word that existed from the beginning, who was with God and was God; the Word brilliant with the splendor of truth, solid with eternal strength, in everything like itself with the beauty of the divinity; that Word who is God for those who achieved to penetrate beyond the leather covering of the flesh. The man of the parable had already obtained the pearl, which for some time was hidden under the covering of mortality, as under the shield of hard shells, in the depths of this earth, and hidden among the hard rock of the Jews. This man, I say, had already obtained the possession of the pearl, when he says: And even though before we had known Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know him as such. Because no concept absolutely merits the name pearl, if it does not achieve to eliminate from it all the worldly wrappings that is covering it, either by the human word or by the similar things that enwrap it” (qu. Mt. 12).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field” (Mt. 13:44).
- What for you is the hidden treasure?
- From your point of view, what must be done with the hidden treasure?
b. “The kingdom of heaven is also like a merchant of fine pearls who, on finding one of great value, goes to sell all he has and buys it” (Mt 13:46).
- What is it that you search for in life?
- What are you disposed to leave behind and give to obtain Christ?
c. Pray with this phrase: “Lord, you are the hidden treasure.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate the man who found the treasure in the field. Contemplate his surprise and happiness. See how he again hides the treasure, and full of joy, goes to sell what he owns to buy the field. Contemplate how his neighbors, who do not know of the treasure in the field, admire him while he is full of happiness.
b. Contemplate the merchant of fine pearls and how he was greatly surprised and greatly satisfied upon finding one of great price. Contemplate how he gives all his possessions to own it. Above all contemplate his joy, and observe that Christ is the pearl for whom it is necessary to leave behind everything in order to possess him.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about leaving behind everything to obtain the hidden treasure or the precious pearl who is Christ. The following points can help you to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you will drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“The treasure hidden in the field are the two Testaments of the Law in the Church; whoever attentively observes them will realize that there are great teachings hidden there” (cons. eu. 1, 13).