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John Chrysostom on the Parables of the Kingdom

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The following is my translation of John Chrysostom’s sermon on the parables of the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price and the dragnet that include the Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13.

Note how the Golden-Tongued repeats the content of the Gospel for the benefit of his listeners who don’t have copies of the Scriptures in their homes. (The printing press hasn’t been invented yet and copies of the Scriptures had to be bought book-by-book from copying services, mostly provided by monks). Second, the preacher makes it a point to give a brief analysis of the parables and to explain them in comparison to the preceding section.

The Kingdom of Heaven is similar to a treasure hidden in a field:  the man who finds it, hides it anew and getting ecstatic out of sheer joy, goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.  More, the reign of  heaven is similar to a merchant who goes in search of fine pearls; once he finds the pearl of great price, he goes and sells all he has and buys it (Mt. 13:44-46).  Just like the two parables of the mustard seed and the yeast do not differ much from each other, so too the parables of the treasure and the pearl are similar to each other.  The one and the other both tells us that we should prefer and prioritize the Gospel above all.  The parables of the yeast and the mustard seed refer to the power of the Gospel and shows that it will conquer the whole world.  The two last parables, instead, focuses on its value and prize.  The Gospel grows and extends like the mustard tree and raises the world like the yeast; on the other hand, the Gospel is precious like the pearl and procures benefits and glory without end like the treasure.

With these two last parables, we learn not only that it is necessary to renounce all other goods in order to embrace the Gospel, and to do this with joy.  Who renounces what one possesses should be convinced that it is a gain not a loss.  See how the Gospel is hidden in the world, like a treasure, and how it encloses within itself all goods?  If you don’t sell all, you cannot acquire it and if you don’t have a soul that seeks it with the same concern and with the same ardor with which a treasure is sought, you cannot find it.  Two conditions are absolutely necessary: to keep oneself far from that which is earthly and to be vigilant. “The kingdom of heaven” says Jesus, “is similar to a merchant who goes in search of fine pearls; and having found the pearl of great price, goes and sells all he has and buys it (Mt. 13:45-46)”.  Only one, infact, is the truth and it is not possible to divide it in many parts.  And in the same manner as one who possesses the pearl knows how rich he is, although his wealth may be missed by the eyes of others, because he holds it in his hands — the same thing happens with the Gospel:  those who possess it know that they are rich while those who don’t believe, not knowing this treasure, ignore also the treasure we have.

At this point, however, so as to prevent men from confiding only in evangelical preaching and believing that only faith is enough to save them, the Lord adds another parable full of terror.  Which?  The parable of the dragnet.  “Similarly, the reign of heaven is like a dragnet that, thrown into the sea, collects all kiinds of fish.  When it is full, the fishermen drag it to the beach and as they sit, put in baskets those that are good and throw away those that are bad (Matthew 13:47-48).”  How does this parable differ from that of the parable of the tares?  In truth, even in that, some men are condemned while others are saved.  In the parable of the tares, however, men are lost because they follow heretical doctrines and even before this, because they don’t listen to the word of God; while those who are prefigured in the bad fish are condemned on account of their lives.  Such men are no doubt the most miserable of all because after having known the truth and having been taken in this spiritual net, they have not known how in such wise to save themselves.

John Chrysostom, In Matthaeum 47, 2

Originally posted 2008-07-22 17:54:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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