Treasure Old and New

Monday, June 4, 2012 — Week of Proper 4, Year Two

John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), Bishop of Rome, 1963

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Ecclesiastes 2:1-15

Galatians 1:1-17

Matthew 13:44-52

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:44, 52)

Today we have the observance of the feast day proposed for John XXIII, elected Pope in 1958 when he was 77 years old. During the first year of his pontificate, he called the Second Vatican Council which revitalized and renewed the Roman Catholic Church. Some would say Vatican II brought the Catholic Church into the twentieth century. John XXIII was certainly a breath of fresh air for those of us in other branches of Christianity.

I can’t account for its historicity, but the story is told that when John announced that Protestants would be invited to observe the council, a conservative cardinal objected, saying, “But Your Holiness, Protestants are heretics!” “Do not say, ‘heretics,’ my son. Say, ‘separated brethren.'” “They are in league with the devil!” “Do not say, ‘devil,’ my son. Say, ‘separated angel.'”

Our reading today from Matthew starts with the brief parable of the treasure in the field and of the pearl of great value. Upon finding what is precious, the wise one sells all for it. The reading ends with Matthew’s example of the good scribe who “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” John XXIII saw the deep value of embracing the church’s tradition and “selling all” to re-formulate it faithfully for a new generation.

From his opening address to the Second Vatican Council, October 1962:

The major interest of the ecumenical council is this: that the sacred heritage of Christian truth be safeguarded and expounded with greater efficacy…

Our duty is not just to guard this treasure, as though it were some museum-piece and we the curators, but earnestly and fearlessly to dedicate ourselves to the work that needs to be done in this modern age of ours, pursuing the path which the Church has followed for almost twenty centuries. Nor are we here primarily to discuss certain fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, or to restate in greater detail the traditional teachings of the Fathers and of early and more recent theologians. There was no need to call a council merely to hold discussions of that sort.

What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith. What is needed — and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit craves today — is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on people’s moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching, is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else. (from Celebrating the Saints, Robert Atwell, Canterbury Press, 2004.)

How can each of us in our lives today make the great treasure we have inherited more alive and more vital through our witness and service, with “a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind”?

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