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Test and Trace



(Matthew 13:44-52)

I like this anti-Covid jingle! It’s not only an effective tool in fighting the virus but could be used in many another context. To test is not just, of course, to stick a thermometer under your tongue to reveal your temperature. Nor is to trace just a question of finding people who might have been infected.

We test and trace all the time. You are visiting a friend for dinner and like the wine served, or the tablecloth or the cutlery. You are impressed, you like it, you take a good look (or taste!). That’s testing. If you’re familiar with your host you will then engage in tracing: “where did you get that? how much? etc.”.

We are constantly testing things and even people in our lives. It’s a case of searching for the truth, for knowledge of the facts. It’s a way of also protecting ourselves from charlatans, from being duped and taken for a ride. But when we find the truth, when we source the genuine article, we pursue it, and depending on what it is, our pursuit may well cost us in time, treasure or talent. It may even cost us everything.

I’ve always admired people who can spot a true gem from a fake, as well as those on TV who are able to put a value on an old vase or book cabinet. It is fascinating to hear them explain why they attach such worth to something or set it aside as worthless. 

Sadly, I feel that we have lost today our skills in testing and tracing in matters moral and spiritual. It is so easy to let junk into our homes and, therefore, into our way of thinking and choosing. Someone declares for no other reason than they want to that an age-old value like marriage now means something else, and people drink it in as progressive, or some other buzzword which is supposed to make our hearts flutter.

Today, many do the opposite of the two men in the parables of Jesus in today’s Gospel. We are blessed to have already in our possession the pearl of great price and the treasure in the field, but some joker comes along and tells us that, no, the shiny little trinket he is offering is now the “in thing”, and, without ceremony, we cast aside our inheritance. We have become like Esau, who sold his birthright for a plate of soup.

Christ urges us, however, to test and trace, to seek and find and to sell everything else we own for the treasures he has won and defended for us at the cost of his blood. Why on earth or in heaven would we listen to anyone else? And it’s not because of Covid-19!