Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seventeenth Sunday. "Sell all" that you have: to possess Christ as our treasure we shun the people, places and things that might separate us from Him

We willingly spend our treasure for what we want. I enjoy traveling and the experience it brings of new people, places and things. After recent travels in the Eurozone, however, I had more than one occasion to question whether the "treasured" opportunity of traveling was truly worth the expenditure of "treasure" required of me by the unfavorable exchange rate!

We value our families: they are "treasure" for all of us. For this reason we invest our time, money and effort into the betterment of spouses and children; all of these are signs of love, are they not? The Scriptures say: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:21).

In the Gospel the Lord tells us what is the sign that someone has found that which they truly treasure: a willingness to sell all they have in order to gain it.

In the first reading God, the "giver of every good gift", and the source of every blessing offers King Solomon whatever he desires: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon demonstrates the gift of wisdom in asking for an "understanding heart".

Doesn't Solomon already have a treasure, itself necessary to make such a wise and holy request possible? Solomon has the treasure of true wisdom, itself already a gift from God. The understanding heart is a heart of love and is a pre-condition for a true appreciation of God and all that he gives, including the treasure of marriage and family life.

How much more than any other gift do we also need to seek from God an understanding heart, a heart ready to love? It is the heart ready to understand and to see with compassion the sufferings, weakness and sins of others in a loving readiness to forgive and to stand in compassion which makes the gift of family, for example, the true experience of a "treasure" as God intended in giving it.

There are in this world people, places and things which serve as temptations. If we give them room in our minds and hearts these temptations will lead us away from God and from every other treasure He wishes to give us. The understanding heart which Solomon sought is a heart which is ready to protect itself by shunning anything that will cause it to sin. In the "our Father" we pray for this understanding heart and mind that we may see and reject all temptation.

"Lead us not into temptation" implies a decision of the heart: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. . . . No one can serve two masters." "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. "No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it." (CCC 2848)

Sometimes people rationalize the pursuit of bad relationships in the workplace or among colleagues thinking that they must offer their friendship to bad or toxic influences because they "owe" it to others to help them. Some young people who are dating pursue sinful relationships with members of the opposite sex and hang on hoping that something good will come of it in the end. Good fruits cannot come from bad trees. Some bad influences or toxic people can be handled best only by fleeing from them. Persons, for example, who attack us by asking inappropriate questions or who disregard boundaries by their behavior are incapable of offering us real friendship and should be avoided. We cannot happily seek the kingdom if we surround ourselves with those who destroy our peace of soul or whose words and actions deeply disturb us. We can, and should, always help others through the charity of our prayers but we never owe anyone our friendship.

We are responsible first for our own salvation. This is the most important work that we do. And our vocations, whether as priests and religious or lay, married or single, are treasures given us by God that we may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. No person, place or thing in this world is worth an eternity separated from God and all those we love in this life if we should lose our salvation.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure"

The life of heaven is perfect in love and happiness. The kingdom of heaven is a treasure above every other. To be on the way to the kingdom we are called to be perfect in holiness, to know Christ and to love Him. Jesus Christ, who calls us to Himself, is the "Treasure" we will eternally possess in order to have perfect love and life in heaven. Already now, through our vocations, He is the source of the love which helps us to seek the kingdom. To "sell all that we have" means not only to choose what is good but also to reject what is evil in order to possess the Kingdom promised us.

" 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment." (CCC 2053)

"Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared." (CCC 949) It is through the grace of Faith that we possess Christ and share Him with others. But to keep that treasure we must not only reject anything that is contrary to the Gospel way of life as spelled out in the Ten Commandments, but we must in generous love "sell all" that we have, practice detachment from people, places and things so as to love God ever more fully. This is what it means to possess Jesus, the "treasure" of our lives.

Whenever we pray we grow in love of God truly present in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is one reason why this prayer of the holy Mass, the Lord's Supper, is absolutely necessary each week: we truly possess Jesus Christ, our greatest treasure, each time we receive Him in the Eucharist.

The Holy Spirit together is our treasure because Jesus makes Himself present through the third Person of the Holy Trinity, always our first taste of salvation and the treasure of the Kingdom.

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

"Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good." (CCC 2671)

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.


Art: Domenico Fetti (Italian, ca 1589–1623). The Pearl of Great Price, 1621–1622. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

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