Thursday, June 16, 2016

Treasure That Lasts

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Then Jehoiada (the priest) made a covenant between the Lord as one party and the king and the people as the other, by which they would be the Lord’s people; and another covenant, between the king and the people. Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and demolished it.   
(2 Kings 11:17-18a)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. (Fall in Love, attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, 1907-1991)

Last Friday in the reading from 1 Kings 19, we heard about Queen Jezebel’s fury toward the prophet Elijah for having set up the contest between the prophets of Baal and himself, resulting in Israel’s God being recognized as the one, true God - for a while, anyway. This vengeful wife of King Ahab, who brought the worship of Baal to her marriage, set out to kill Elijah.   

But you haven’t seen anything yet. Fast forward a few years. King Ahab is deceased. One of his daughters, Athaliah, sets out to destroy the entire house of David in order to seize the rule of the kingdom for herself. Once her son, the reigning king, dies, she plots to kill all her grandchildren. However, one of her late husband’s daughters spirits one of the grandsons away and hides him in the temple for six years, at which time his presence is revealed to all, he is anointed a king, and the people are restored to right relationship with the God of their forbears.   

Today’s Gospel reading continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Lord is
James Tissot (French,
The Sermon of the
speaking to the crowd about what they hold dear. Jesus tells them to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth and points out that their hearts will be wherever their treasures lie. Unfortunately, sometimes what we treasure is anything but “heavenly.” Look at that queen mother Athaliah, for example. What she prizes above anything else, including the lives of her family, is political power. She’ll do anything for it, including murdering her innocent grandchildren. What kind of person kills her grandchildren? And earthly power, political or otherwise, doesn’t last.   When you die, you can’t take it with you.   

On the other hand, consider the people Jesus is addressing. Earlier in his sermon, he has addressed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted. These are not the powerful of his day. These are the marginalized and dispossessed people of Jesus’ time. What they receive is the greatest treasure of all. They are face-to-face with the Son of God, the one who reveals the Father to them. Through Jesus’ promises, they are showered with the mercy, compassion and love of God. Imagine how it must have felt to be a nobody in the eyes of the world yet hear that you will inherit the kingdom of God, that you will see God, that your sorrows will be met with comfort, that God claims you as sons and daughters! To be in a relationship with Jesus and his Father is to possess treasure beyond description, something that will last for all eternity.

Our love for others is also a lasting treasure. In the musical Les Misérables, the main character, Jean Valjean, sings, “To love another person, is to see the face of God.” To love someone with the love God has shown us in his Son is to be blessed forever. It’s a treasure that never decays or rusts, one which no one can take from us.

Every day when I pray St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen prayer, I offer to God the things for which I am grateful that day. As I was praying with today’s Gospel reading, I thought about the sorts of things that usually make it into that part of my prayer. Although I am blessed in having the necessities of life more than amply provided for, and perhaps should express my thanks in prayer for that more often than I do, the majority of days what I am most grateful for are the ways in which God has touched my life or the ways in which being in relationship with someone that day has been a blessing from God.

However you choose to pray each day, what is the treasure you lift before God with a thankful heart?

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