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Father Cantalamessa on Heaven's Insurance

A Commentary by Pontifical Household Preacher

ROME, JULY 23, 2005 (Zenit) - In his commentary on this Sunday's readings, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, talks about true life insurance.

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Matthew 13:44-52
Hidden Treasures and Pearls

What did Jesus want to say with the two parables of the hidden treasure and the precious pearl? More or less this: The decisive hour of history has arrived. The kingdom of God has appeared on earth!

Specifically, it's about him, and his coming on earth. The hidden treasure, the precious pearl, is none other than Jesus. It is as if, with those words, Jesus wishes to say: Salvation has come to you freely, by God's initiative, make the decision, hold firmly to it, don't let it escape. This is a time of decision.

What comes to mind is what occurred on the day World War II ended. In the city, partisans and allies opened the provisions stores left by the German army in retreat. In a flash, the news spread to the camps and all came running to get some of the goods, some returning burdened with blankets, and others with baskets full of food products.

I think, with those two parables, Jesus wanted to create a similar atmosphere. As if to say: "Run while you have time! There is a treasure freely waiting for you, a precious pearl. Don't miss the occasion." All is risked for all. The kingdom is the only thing that can save us from the greatest risk in life, which is to mistake the reason why we are in this world.

We live in a society that can't live without insurance. We insure everything. In some nations it has become a sort of mania. One can even take out insurance in case one has bad weather during vacation. The most important and frequent of all is life insurance.

But let us reflect for a moment. For whom is such insurance useful? Against what does it insure us? Against death? Certainly not! It insures that, in case of death, someone receives an indemnity.

The kingdom of heaven is also a life insurance and against death, but real insurance, which is useful not only to the one who stays behind, but also to the one who goes -- to the one who dies.

"He who believes in me, though he die, will live," said Jesus. One must also understand the radical need that a "matter" such as this poses: To sell everything; To detach oneself from everything. In other words: Be prepared, if necessary, for any sacrifice. We must work not to pay the price of the treasure or the pearl, which by definition is "priceless," but to be worthy of it.

In each of the two parables there are, in reality, two characters: The one mentioned in the parable who goes, sells, buys; and another who is hidden, implied. The implied character is the former proprietor who was not aware that there was a treasure in his field and sold it to the first one who asked for it. It is the man or woman who had the precious pearl and did not realize its value, and let the first merchant who passed by have it, perhaps for a collection of artificial pearls.

How can we not see in it a warning addressed to us, people of the old European Continent, in the act of selling our Christian faith and heritage?

On the other hand, the parable does not say that "a man sold everything he had and began to look for a hidden treasure." We know how these stories end: One loses what one has and finds no treasure. These are stories of illusions, of visionaries.

In this story, a man found a treasure, and because he found it he sold everything he had to acquire it. One must first find the treasure to have the strength and joy to sell everything.

Beyond the parable, one must first find Jesus in a new, personal, and convinced way. One must discover him as one's friend and Savior, and then it will be nothing to sell everything. One will do so "full of joy," as the man in the Gospel.

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