Ask something of me, and I will give it to you. So says God to Solomon.
Imagine God saying that to you. What would you ask for?
Both God's invitation and God's response would fill us with great joy. Filling us with joy seems to be God's joy as well.
Like a parent who delights in their child discovering and opening a hidden present. God is like that, too.
Such is the message of Jesus' two parables today of the treasure and the pearl. They catch our imagination. We can picture a poor farmer working in the field, with a hoe or something like that, and by accident, just beneath the surface he hits something hard, clears the soil, and finds a wooden box with a great treasure.
The other parable involves not a poor man, but a well-to-do merchant who travels to far-away places. One day he sees a pile of so-so pearls and suddenly in among them is a pearl that looks like the rest, but his trained eye can see that it is a magnificent pearl worth a fortune.
Now, Jesus didn't tell these fascinating stories just to entertain his audience. He is telling us something about God, and teaching us how to find God...and joy.
Let's see, in both cases the valuable discovery was right there in front of everyone else. The treasure was just beneath the surface of a field that people passed by or walked through all the time. The pearl was in open sight, on a table with all the other pearls. It's just that nobody noticed.
Here's what I'd like you to do. Take just a few seconds now and look ahead to the things coming up in your life this week. It doesn't have to be something special - just the regular stuff of the week. Take a few seconds to think about your schedule. [Pause]
Okay. Now, the panorama of the week is in your mind ...just beneath the surface of everything in it, and mixed together with everything that's part of it, is a great treasure. It is God. Imagine. God mixed in with all that. God is in all this week's stuff, present, active, with us, asking us to take notice.
What a treasure! What joy! To have God here - especially in some of the things that aren't entirely pleasant, or are boring. What a great treasure to have God here!
Now, I, too, thought about my schedule: celebrating Mass, preparing a homily, visiting the sick, breaking bread with a friend, communing with God and nature on the beach or at the St. Johns River, reading a book while being serenaded by birds, or fighting construction traffic all around us, perhaps in a driving down-pour. This week I'm going to think about God being with me even when stuck in traffic, of all places. It may not be easy.
But that's the point. God is with us in everything, and it's especially difficult to notice God's presence in the not-so-good parts of our lives, or in the hum-drum, routine parts of our lives. But God is there, even though God's presence can go unnoticed - just like no one noticed the treasure in that field, or that priceless pearl mixed in with the others.
Now I know and you know that God is everywhere. But that can be just an abstract thought. It's different when we picture God in the day-to-day things of life. You see it's not God looking down on us from a distance. It's God in the midst of it all.
Remember, we're not pretending God is here. We are realizing and experiencing the up-close presence of God with us.
And...God isn't here as a spectator. God is part of it. This is God's world. We are God's daughters and sons. God is here in the thick of it to be with us.
Did you notice in both parables...the result was joy? The treasure of God's presence is always uplifting. It brings a certain peace, a certain sense of purpose, a joyful feeling.
I close with a thought that I hope will help you, and me, notice the presence of God all week long. One of the small parts of the Mass, but an important one, is what we do at the very end. As a matter of fact, it's how the Mass got its name.
When the Mass was said in Latin, the priest said, Ite missa est, which literally means, Go, you are being sent, although often translated, Go, the Mass is ended. The Latin word missa is the word for sending. (In aeronautics we have the English word, missile, which means something sent into the air.) Missa is where the word Mass came from.
At the end of Mass, we don't just get up and leave. We are blessed and sent. In other words, we come here for an hour, to find the great treasure, so that we can live our faith with joy during the other 167 hours of the week.
We are blessed and sent with peace and joy. I pray that this ritual at the end of every Mass will help us carry God's presence into the week, to joyfully discover this great treasure even more.