“Where is our treasure?”
A Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Where is our treasure?
(12th Sunday after Pentecost – Matthew 19:16-26)
Human beings cannot be satisfied with transitory things. Their hearts yearn for eternal things. That was the concern of the rich man of today’s Gospel. He wants to possess eternal life. So he asked Jesus: “Master, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the Commandments. The young man replied: “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Then it was that Jesus zeroed in on that young man’s real lack: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, and follow me”. Then we read the sad words: “When the young man heard this he went away sad; for he had great possessions.”
Eternal life starts now
When we speak of eternal life, we instinctively think of the life after death. But eternity is not a matter of time rather it is a matter of quality. For with the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, the quality of time changed. When the Son of God “descended from heaven”, as we say in the Creed, heaven came to earth, and the eternity filled time. That is what Paul means when he says: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). And St. John, reflecting on the incarnation of the Word of God in the prologue of his Gospel, says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we saw his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father… And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14-16).
With the fullness of time, we received the fullness of grace and truth, because the eternal Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us.”
This is the treasure Jesus speaks of when he compares the Kingdom of God to a treasure: “The Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man happens to find it, so he covers it up again. He is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44). Notice that in both this parable and in the text of the rich man, Jesus uses the same expression. Here he says: “he goes and sells everything he has”. And to the rich man he says: “go and sell all you have”. In the parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a treasure, and to the rich man he says: “go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.
Notice the contrast between the two figures: The man who found the treasure is “so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that field.” The rich man “went away sad; for he had great possessions”.
Jesus came to help us to find the true treasure. When he speaks of the riches of this life, he says: “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. Instead store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be al” (Matthew 6:19-21).
And he concludes speaking of the slavery of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24).
Possessed by possessions
The true problem is not that the young man had many possessions, but that the possessions had him. He was possessed by his possessions. They came first in his life. They were his real god. That is why Jesus asked him to give them to the poor. He could not inherit eternal life unless God came first in his life; unless he was willing to free himself of his enslavement.
We spend our lives storing up things we cannot take with us when we die. Amos Wells expressed it in this way:
“Things! Things! Things!
Things that take our precious time,
Hold us from the life sublime,
Things that only gather dust,
Things that rot and things that rust,
Things that mold and things that freeze,
Things that harbor foul disease,
Things that mock and that defy
Till at last we grimly die
Of things, things, things!”
We store up things in our lives and we die of our concern for things; things that eventually end up in junkyard. No wonder the apostle John declares:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, you do not have the love for the Father in you. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of possessions is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God lives forever. ” (1 John 2: 15-17).
“He who does the will of God lives forever”. Eternal life starts here on earth when we do the will of God.
What is more important: “to have”, or “to be”; to “have more possessions”, or to be more human, more generous, more kind to everyone and loving everyone?
Jesus came to change the quality of our being. That is our true treasure. And Christian religion does not teach us how to have new things, but how to become a new being, born again in the name of Jesus and in the Spirit of God.
Jesus came to teach us the way to the fullness of our being, to the fullness of life, to true happiness. Remember that the man who found the treasure was “so happy” while the rich man “went away sad and sorrowful”. Could it be that Jesus was even more sad and sorrowful?
God offers us the most precious treasure, his own eternal life which was manifested to us in his Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. The only thing he asks us is to accept this gift, and to live according to it. He gave us the most wonderful gift of all, the fullness of life here and the promise of eternal life after death. This promise is given to us in love. What joy and happiness when we accept it! What sorrow and sadness both for us and for God when we refuse it. Jesus says in the book of Revelation: “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house, and eat with him, and he with me” (3:20).
Happy are those who find the treasure of their life in sharing the heavenly banquet with Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior! And we conclude with St. Augustine, in his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you”. Amen!