Today’s Gospel concludes a series of parables in which Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven in different ways (Mt 13:44-52). Jesus has used imagery, simile and allegory to teach his disciples of all times and ages about the kingdom of God. In these final parables, Jesus first compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure hidden in a field. A man finds the treasure and out of joy goes and buys the field to gain the treasure. From this we learn that our realization of God’s goodness and surpassing worth can dawn upon us when and where we do not expect. When we do find Him, however, the proper response is to do whatever we have to do to say yes and take possession of the treasure. It is not outrageous to let go of everything else in order to obtain happiness with God in the kingdom of heaven.

The second image is that of a fine pearl. In this parable, the merchant does not come upon the pearl unawares. Rather, he is looking for the perfect pearl. It is his life’s work and his constant search. Because he is ready and on the lookout, he recognizes the pearl of great price immediately and, similar to the first man, does what he has to do to obtain it. Also, like the first man, he does not hesitate a moment to obtain his prize.  He acts swiftly and decisively.

The final image is an allegory describing the final destiny of mankind. In this parable, Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven will be fully revealed at the end of time or the “close of the age.” At that moment, at Jesus’ second coming, everyone will be gathered like fish in a net and all the fish will be sorted. The evil will be definitively separated from those who are righteous. The evil ones will be thrown into the furnace of fire and the righteous will be kept and taken into the kingdom of heaven. These two destinies are unchangeable and will never end.

Jesus has given His disciples many images over the course of his teaching to help them process and understand the full import of His teachings. As we listen to His words, the parables can and should take a stronger hold on our hearts. Our understanding can deepen over time with the help of prayer. We can also ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Lord’s words, in the same way that Solomon prayed for wisdom in today’s first reading (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12): “Give your servant an understanding mind … that I may discern between good and evil.”  With the wisdom that comes from God we can understand more and more the truth that Our Lord wants to teach us. We can also live that truth more courageously and with greater integrity.

The purpose of all in the instructions and parables of Jesus is for us to grow in union, that is, in knowledge and love of God. Jesus teaches us many things in many different ways so that we can learn to live like Him. In the words of Saint Paul in today’s second reading (Rom 8:28-30), God’s providential love and guidance is at work in each person’s life. In Jesus, God has given us His own words and His life so that we might be conformed to that same image of His Son. Simply put, Jesus does not want to be alone in the kingdom of heaven. He wants us to be there with Him and He teaches us everything that we need to know in order to be with Him forever.