Christian Testimonies: The Stories of Our Lives Christian testimonies are the stories told by believers about what God has done and is doing in their lives.

A Catholic’s Journey

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    A Catholic’s Journey

    The Treasure In The Field

    I was brought up a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, but they did not do much for my faith, and by the time I left school at 18 you could say I was an agnostic.

    Sometimes God moves in powerful ways in peoples lives and there are dramatic conversions. But sometimes he moves slowly. And my story is not one of big changes, but of lots of little nudges, pushes and guidance onto the path he wanted me to travel, however reluctantly at times. Because of this my story is long but I’ll trim it down to the basics.

    After I left school I went to a local university but lived at home so I still went to Mass, but only because my parents did. Then I got married. Still went to Mass, but only because my wife couldn’t drive and I had to take her. I didn’t go to communion. We were very happy and close, except in the area of God and the Church. It was one of those sticky areas that caused a lot of disagreements and arguments, so we just learnt to avoid talking about it. This went on for about 14 years.

    Then we got invited to go on a special weekend, run by a movement called Marriage Encounter, to help couples grow in their relationship, to share their lives at a deeper level. We learnt to talk openly and deeply about God and the Church, and after a year I went to see a priest I knew, went to confession, and returned to receiving communion.

    Over the next few years we got more involved in the parish. We started running a marriage preparation course for engaged couples. We set up a baptism preparation course and various other little jobs. We became “pillars of the parish” and I chugged along spiritually.

    After some years a charismatic lay community moved into our parish and started running a charismatic prayer meeting every week. We started going. I wasn’t very keen on it; it wasn’t my style. As my wife couldn’t drive I used to take her and then pick her up at the tea break. Sometimes I used to stay for some of the second part. Sometimes I went to the first part. But mainly I got known as the man who just came for the tea break!

    But then God really started to take me in hand. 18 months later, aged 50, I was made redundant. Looking back I can see the point of this. There is no way I would ever have left a good permanent job. I had good holidays, the prospect of a good pension, a good income. At 50 job prospects were poor, and especially in the computer industry; I was over the hill. But God had other plans for my life that involved being free of these ties. I went contracting and God provided.

    A year later some friends from Marriage Encounter told us about a course they had been on at a Catholic Marriage Centre. They were so enthusiastic we decided to go on it as well. It was called Growing Together, and we felt a need to grow closer together in our spiritual lives. We wanted to share more together. At the end of it we knelt down in the little chapel there and committed our lives to Jesus. I don’t think either of us really understood what we were saying, but God didn’t need another invitation, and he quickly started us on the path he wanted us to follow, although we did not realise that at the time.

    We both found Spiritual Directors. Mine was an Anglican priest and he helped me a lot. I went on a Life in The Spirit Seminar and started going regularly to the prayer meetings.

    A couple of years later my wife and I felt that there was something coming. Various things in our life seemed to be winding down. It was a year of endings. We sensed that God had plans for us. Things were going to change but we had no idea in what way.

    Then we went to a Charismatic Conference run by the Community and were bowled over. Within a few months I had given up work and we joined the community (by this time our children had left home). At first we lived out and went in each day, but about 8 months later we moved into the community house. It was a very run down dilapidated place. It was very cold, some of the ceilings had fallen down (just the plaster); one staircase had a big prop to keep the ceiling from collapsing. Our quarters were one bedroom with several cracks in one wall, which we hid with a large velvet curtain like a tapestry hanging, and on another floor, a small narrow room as a sitting room. Most of our furniture, books and other belongings we gave away to family, friends, charity shops. We downsized in a big way.

    The reaction of our family and friends ranged from indifference, to puzzlement, to incredulity, to fear that we were joining some cult. I think only two people really understood what we were doing - our parish priest, and a nun we were very friendly with in the local convent. Both of them had felt the call of God to change their lifestyle.


    So why have I headed this “The Treasure In The Field”?

    We moved into our two rooms, and my wife’s parents who lived nearby came to see us there and I think they were shocked, although they tried hard to understand. But we were very happy, joyful. It just felt so right. We didn’t miss our house, or the things we had given away. I’m not saying there weren’t problems, heartaches, doubts; of course there were some, but mainly joy and peace. But it was very difficult to explain to our family and friends why were doing this, and why we felt it was right, and why we so happy. And indeed I couldn’t really understand it myself. Of course it was a grace from God that we could feel like this, but I wanted more of an explanation than that. Then I read a book about some of Jesus’ parables and an approach to one in particular - The Treasure In The Field - gave me a lot of insight.

    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44)

    At first read the parable is just saying that if we really want the kingdom we have to pay a price for it. This is true, but it is not all. There are unanswered questions.

    Why did the person who found the treasure not just stick it in his pocket and walk off with it? Or if it was too big for that, why not come back at night to get it? Why rebury and it and then go through all the hassle and expense of buying the field?

    Suppose he had just walked off with it; what would the owner of the field feel if he found out that the man had stolen the treasure? Did the owner of the field know the treasure was there? Even more interesting, had he put it there to be found?

    Why was the man so joyful at just having found the treasure? I think some translations say he went off rejoicing. If it was me I would have kept very quiet until I had got hold of it. And what did the owner think when this man came and said I think your field is so wonderful that I want to buy it. I’ve sold everything I own, my house, my possessions, just to buy it off you?

    To answer this we have to understand what the treasure is, and what the field is, and why the man had to own the field to own the treasure.

    What is the treasure and what is the field?

    The treasure is the relationship with God, the reign of God, the gifts of the Spirit, love, peace, joy etc. Becoming children of God, having a relationship with God is a treasure beyond price. We were given this treasure, this relationship with God, at our Baptism. What have we done with it? Have we reburied it, rejoiced and bought the field? Or have we just reburied it and forgotten it, or perhaps reburied the treasure and left it there, reckoning we know where it is should we ever need it? But we are not supposed to leave it there, we are supposed to rejoice at having found it, go off and sell everything we have and buy the field.

    The field is the particular community where God wants us to receive his treasure. We can’t properly have the treasure without the community. It’s where that relationship with God is expressed and lived out. It means that we have to live in relationship with others as well as with God; and with particular others not just others in general. God has put his treasure for us in a particular community, or perhaps several communities; our family, our parish, a residential Christian community. Growing in holiness, and in our relationship with God, has to be done with others.

    But surely God gives us a relationship with him for free. We don’t have to earn it! Well yes, and no. This parable tells us that God want us to buy into the field in order to own the treasure. This is not to do just with money though. We have to give up ourselves, our time, our energies, our skills, and yes, perhaps our money too. We have to make sacrifices. We want the kingdom but are we willing to pay the going price? St. Paul tells us we are children of God, and heirs to the kingdom. But sometimes we don’t want any pain involved in claiming our inheritance.

    We don’t need to make ourselves destitute, but we do need to think about what we actually need, and give away the rest to people who do need it. And that applies not only to possessions and money but to our time and our gifts.

    And it’s not always easy. The main problem of living in a community, whether it’s a residential community, or a parish community, or our families, is the other people. The field that is our community isn’t always lush green grass, it can be a muddy place, with hidden rocks, with pot holes to trip us up. But it is where we are called to live out our life and our relationship with God. And that time was very special in my life, a time of spiritual growth. I learnt a lot about being open to the Holy Spirit and how God looks after me I try and do his will.

    I say was because after 10 years in the community we decided we needed more time and space for ourselves as a couple. So we moved out, though we are still involved in different ways – my wife more than myself. Circumstances change. God calls us to new work, to a new community. But we have to think about where God has buried the treasure for us, the field he wants us to make sacrifices to own; the field he wants us to live in.
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