Have you ever found money in a pocket that you forgot was there? Didn’t you feel great? Even if it was just a little bit, it still felt like a windfall. That’s the feeling I pick up in today’s gospel with the buried treasure and the pearl of great price. There’s an excitement and anticipation of wonderful things to come. I felt like that recently when I read this quote by St. Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Contra Gentiles, “The role of the wise person is to meditate on the truth, especially the truth regarding the first principle and to discuss it with others.” Does it sound familiar?
Later in the Summa Theologiae, Thomas would apply this concept to religious life saying, “the contemplative life is, absolutely speaking, more perfect than the active life, because the latter is taken up with bodily actions: yet that form of active life in which a [person], by preaching and teaching, delivers to others the fruits of his/[her] contemplation, is more perfect than the life that stops at contemplation, because such a life is built on an abundance of contemplation, and consequently such was the life chosen by Christ.” Thomas makes a case for the importance of contemplation but also how one should share the insights with others. “Contemplare et contemplata aliis trader” – to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.
I think of contemplation a little like searching for buried treasure. Most of the time when we meditate, nothing happens – there’s no treasure in the field. But every so often, we experience the gold of understanding, a pearl of wisdom or a diamond (with it’s many facts) of new insight. Even if we don’t find anything, we empty our minds of our own thoughts and expectations and make it ready for God. This openness may lead to a revelation when we least expect it. When we do come across it, it’s marvelous, exciting, divine.
The importance of contemplation cannot be underestimated. In an address to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2012, Archbishop Rowan Williams stated “[Contemplation] is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom…it is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world…To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly.” (Richard Rohr Meditation: Revolutionary Contemplation. July 11, 2017)
We are invited by our generous God to participate in this essential prayer and, as Dominicans, to share the fruits of that prayer with the world. The Dominican charism compels us to share our fruits, which our ‘unreal and insane’ world desperately needs.
Mysterious yet generous God, lead us to your buried treasure. Give us the patience to wait and the tenacity to keep going. Reward us with fruits of our contemplation and courage to share with others those fruits.