The enormity of what is happening in the world at this time is just impossible for our minds to comprehend. Even to think that one in every 100 Americans are now affected with the Corona virus is staggering. It’s an event of such magnitude that it forces us to look deep within to where Jesus says we find the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s the treasure that is hidden in the field of our own hearts that we are being forced to search after.
Some years ago I heard a remarkable story, from a man who is a native of Carne, that I have no reason to believe to be untrue. It goes back a long time, to around 1870, because the man who told me was in his late 80’s, and it was relayed to him by his father and concerned his uncle. Together they had travelled in a horse and cart for an auction to a place called Sceachmolan near Murrintown and while travelling he told him a story about the place and the two brothers who once lived there called Micheal and John. As a young man John had a recurring dream that went on for years. The dream was that if he went to England and stood on the middle of London Bridge he would find his fortune. Times were tough living off a small farm and now in their forties they were quite poor.
On day at a fair in Wexford John met this man’s uncle who in the course of buying two cattle ended up telling him of his recurring dream. The uncle encouraged him to follow his dream even though he had never been on a boat or train or even seen a big city. It was a daunting journey but he went. For five days he walked the bridge and felt stupid wondering what he was doing there. ‘One more day and then I’m off home and so much for stupid dreams’, he decided. Next day as he stood gazing at the river below a man tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he were looking for something. He eyed up the stranger and told him his story.
The stranger laughed and said in reply. ‘Forget about your dream and go back home. For much of my life I have been dreaming of a place called Sceachmolan in Wexford and how if I dug under an apple tree in the bottom of a garden I would find a crock of gold. It’s a tree on its own just by a fence and with a mountain in view.’ John knew the tree well for it was in his own back garden and he packed his few belongings and returned home as fast as he could. He got his spade and dug around the tree. He struck something solid and a crock with a lid was uncovered that could hold about a gallon of water. Inside were a considerable number of gold sovereigns. They lived well on the proceeds for a number of years but again slipped back into poverty.
One day a man of the roads called and John gave him a mug of tea. The traveller kept looking at the crock on the dresser and John showed him something written in Gaelic on the inside. Can you read that he asked? ‘It reads, Faoin ceann seo ta ceann eile – Beneath this there is another.’ As soon as the traveller had left John had his spade in action and sure enough found another crock, again with lots of sovereigns.
The man who was telling the story said he remembered it so well because when John died he was at the auction with his father and he saw that very crock with the writing being sold for the princely sum of one pound.
So what John thought he had to travel so far to look for he had to come home to find. It’s like that in life we have to do a lot of searching and peering over bridges before we even know where to look for what we really need.
Which brings us to the Gospel with a very similar message - The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a treasure hidden in a field that someone finds. He hides it again. Goes off happy, sees it more valuable than everything else he owns, so he sells what he has and buys the field. What is the treasure and where is the field?
Looked at from the broader picture presented in the Scriptures the treasure is a symbol of our true selves that always lie hidden in the field of our lives behind so many layers of falsehood. We so often put on a face to meet the faces that we meet. When someone asks us how we are we reply fine when the same fine if we were honest could stand for; Fecked up Insecure, Neurotic and Eccentric. A false smile can conceal a lot of sadness and unhappiness. Similarly we try to accumulate wealth or things in the mistaken belief that the more we have the more we are and the happier we will be.
The kingdom is definitely not about when we die and go to heaven. Its much more about the here and now and how to find happiness, peace and contentment in the present. Jesus and the Buddha were very similar in their teachings about this. The Buddha spoke about all suffering and unhappiness being caused by attachment to external things and that such attachments divorced us from the reality of our true selves. Jesus spoke of the man selling what he owned which is much the same thing – he let go of what he had out there in order to come into full possession of what he could only have on the inside.
We are so programmed to think of happiness being out there, somewhere beyond the rainbow. Someone will make me happy; something will make me happy; there’s always a boat coming in that I’m waiting for that will bring me happiness. Yet when we think about it realistically; has anyone ever made us happy in the long term. Has anything ever fulfilled its promise of happiness. Can anyone or anything fulfill our expectations. It boils down to the fact that happiness is an inside job and so Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven being in our hearts and never out there. It’s always at home in Sceachmolan and never to be found on London Bridge.