Finding what you need

The shelves in the study of The Rectory are full of books. There are Biblical commentaries, works of theology, spirituality, liturgy and ecclesiology. They are there to the impress the visitor and give the impression that the Rector is a learned and well-read man. A priest who is neither of the above once said to me that books are cheaper than wallpaper.

Though I cannot claim to have read all of them, I do know where every book is. I have my own little system, that functions like the Dewey decimal system in the library. Any new book is put in its allotted place. I have this system because I had become so irritated by the time wasted, searching for a book, which I knew was there, but didn’t know where it was. Now I can find the book I need instantly. The same is true for any craftsman or professional who needs a well-ordered workshop or tool box, to be able to instantly pick out the right implement.

Jesus says that the scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who brings out from his store-room that which is both new and old. These are his precious items, that are kept safe and secure, and the householder values both equally. The scribe is the one dedicated to study of the religious law, who copies it out. Jesus was praising those who could remain faithful to the old law, while appreciating that the new law of love has come in the form of Jesus.

Having reached for Sacra Pagina Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, on my bookshelves, I can tell you that the Greek word that Matthew uses for ‘who has become a disciple’ or ‘has been trained’ is 'mathateutheis'. Could this be a play on words, on the name Matthew? The Gospel of Matthew is after all, the one that was written for Christians with a Jewish background. Matthew often quotes from the prophets to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.

The way in which Matthew became a disciple of Christ is rather similar to the man who discovers the buried treasure. The man stumbles across the treasure by chance, and having found it he sells everything he has to buy the field. He knows that the sacrifice is worth it. Matthew was in his tax-collector’s booth when Jesus called him to follow him, and he left everything instantly to follow Jesus. He instinctively knew that he has to do this.

St Paul, on the other hand is more like the pearl-merchant, who has spent all his life looking for fine pearls. When he finds the pearler of pearls, he knows he has to have it. St Paul had spent his life searching for religious truth. He was a pharisee and had sat at the feet of the great Gamaliel. He persecuted the early Christians, but when Christ was revealed to him and challenged him, he had to submit, and became his great evangelist.

The experience of Christ, can have a tremendous life-changing effect upon us. Our experience may have been one of sudden conversion or of a steady growth in understanding after much searching. But the process of conversion, of turning to Christ, is life-long. And through life, through experiences, through what we learn about him, we keep on adding precious items to the store-cupboard, the new alongside the old. We need to be familiar with what is in there. We need to know where to look when we need help, to find what we need from his teaching to repeat to ourselves, and to give to others when they need help and encouragement. 

When Solomon asked God for wisdom he asked for a discerning judgement, to know what is right and wrong. He asked for what he needed rather than what he might have wanted.  And God gave him a wise and shrewd heart.

We need to know what we are looking for, if we are to have any hope of finding it and possessing it. Are we sure that we are looking for what we need rather than what we want?  

A man is walking along the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie.
The genie says, "I have been trapped in this bottle for 100 years.  You have released me. In return I grant you three wishes."

The man knows exactly what he wants.
“First”, he says, “I want 10 million pounds.”

Poof!  A flash of light, and he is surrounded by wads of cash.

"Next, I want a brand new top of the range sports car.."

Poof! A flash of light and a brand-new Ferrari appears.
"And now I want you to make me irresistible to women."

Poof!  A flash of light, and he turns into a box of chocolates.