When I traveled to the country of Spain in the summer of 2003 to hike the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela in honor of the Apostle James the Greater, I also had the wonderful opportunity to wander around the country of Spain with a friend of mine after completing the pilgrimage hike. One of the most enlightening places we visited was the city of Segovia, which is not only the city where St. John of Cross spent his last days & where he is buried, but it is also the place where the famous Spanish poet Antonio Machado spent many years of his life. I visited the small set of rooms where Machado lived for many years, where he wrote some of his most famous poems. Recently, I came across a poem of Machado’s that talks about the state of his soul. This is what Machado wrote:
One clear day the wind with the
aroma of jasmine called my heart:
( The wind said:) "In exchange for my aroma I'd love to
have the fragrance of all your roses."
(I replied:) " I have no roses, there aren't any
flowers in my garden; all have died."
(The wind then said:) " I will then take the fountain's waters,
the yellow leaves and the withered petals."
The wind left...My heart wailed....
" Soul, what have you done to your garden?"
There are a lot of things we can claim for our treasure in life, many, many things. Recently, there have been a couple of series on TV that have addressed the issue of hoarding in our society, how some people take the accumulation of material possessions to the extreme, to the extent that they accumulate so many stacks and piles of different material objects that they barely even have space to move around in their homes.
Jesus’ parable today addresses the great treasures that people find in the lives – buried treasure in a field that is so wonderful that one is willing to sell everything in order to obtain it, or a pearl that a merchant finally finds after many years of searching. The point of all of these stories is that the kingdom of God is that treasure for us, far more valuable than anything we can obtain here on earth. Yet, somehow we can be so caught up with the treasures we have in the here and now of our earthly existence. There are some in our society who are ready to sell their souls for the accumulation of material wealth and riches here on earth. Many of them end up compromising their salvation for the sake of fame, or power, or popularity, or success in the jobs. That is the sentiment that Antonio Machado tried to capture in his poem. The Lord can come to us in a quiet whisper & a calm breeze with the good news of salvation, with a call for us to follow him that can be as subtle and as beautiful as the smell of jasmine blooming on a hot summer’s night. Yet, if we’ve neglected our faith, if the garden of our soul has not been cultivated, we might not be ready to receive his message, no matter how beautiful and inviting it may be.
When I was in Rome with the youth choir from Jackson last December, we visited St Paul’s basilica outside of the walls of the ancient city of Rome. For centuries, the Church officials had tried to find the exact place where Paul’s tomb was buried. One spot of ground was ruled out because it looked like it was solid rock, so they thought that there was no way Paul could have been buried on that spot. However, it turned out not to be rock, it was just soil that had been hardened for so long that it was hard as rock. This is the place where the treasure was eventually found, below that hard, hard soil, where the tomb of St. Paul was finally found not that long ago. Just like soil that can become hard as a rock, our hearts can become so hard that we might not think that this is the place where we’ll find our treasure, so we start looking for that treasure in other places, in those external activities & things that fill up our lives. But Jesus tells us that we need to keep searching for the treasure that we will only find in God’s kingdom, for this is the only treasure that is worth such a great price.
The great Catholic writer Ron Rolheiser writes that there are many tragic ways to die in our world, but there are two ways that are most tragic of all. If we die without expressing the love we have in our hearts for God & for our brothers & sisters, or if we die without feeling the love that God has for us, without feeling the love of our brothers & sisters for us, that is the greatest tragedy of all. Indeed, God is love. And since we were made in the image of God, we are called to love, we are called to experience the love of others. May we keep searching, may we never give up until we find the treasure that awaits us in God’s kingdom, in God’s love.