21 June 2013

Permanently stored in heaven

St. Aloysius Gonzaga 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic, NOLA 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. . .But store up treasures in heaven. . .For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Though it would seem that our Lord is most concerned about where we store our treasures—on earth, or in heaven—he is also daring us to consider what it is that we treasure. So, along with pondering the placement of our valuables, we should also be thinking carefully about what we call “treasure.” Anything that can be lost, stolen, burned, or destroyed by hungry bugs is probably not a candidate for the name Treasure. Anything that can be weighed, exchanged for cash, hidden away, or ransomed is not a Treasure; or at the very least, it's not the sort of thing that we should be treasuring. By admonishing us to store our treasures in heaven, Jesus is telling us that only those sorts of things that can make it to heaven and abide there forever are truly valuable. What sorts of things are these? Good will, graces, a perfected soul, a resurrected body, the light of a well-formed conscience. None of these is perishable; all of these are gifts. 

Indeed, everything we have and are is a gift, not just the imperishable gifts from heaven. Our bodies—their appetites, desires, passions—are gifts as well. Lest you fall into error, never forget: you are a body and a soul divinely created and ordered towards love. So, if my body and soul are both gifts from God, and all gifts from God are valuable, then how can we say that only imperishable gifts are truly valuable? In other words, is Jesus really teaching us that we should only treasure imperishable gifts? No, not at all. He says, “. . .where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Where do you store your heart? What functions as the center of your life? From where do you draw the energy you need to love, to forgive, to grow in holiness? If you treasure your career above all else, what happens if your career fails? If you treasure your hobbies or your children or your wealth above all else, what happens when these perish, disappear? If the center of your life is stored in anything perishable, then what happens to you when your storage container is stolen or burned or eaten by hungry bugs? If you will endure forever, you must entrust your heavenly gifts to the Gift Giver. Your heart must rest with God. 

If you think about it, it only makes sense that we should strive to return to God the gifts He gives us. The whole purpose of heavenly gifts—both perishable and imperishable—is to bring us closer to the Gift Giver. But how do we return perishable gifts? How do I give back to God the things He gives me? One way is make sure that I use these gifts for His glory. We talk about time, talent, and treasure—three significant but perishable gifts. I can consecrate these three gifts, thus returning them to God. I can set aside time for merciful deeds, prayer, spiritual reading. I can set aside my talents and use them only for the good of God's people. I can set aside a portion of my earthly treasure to spend on godly works. How then do we return imperishable gifts? How do we store these with the Gift Giver? There is really only one imperishable gift given from heaven: love. We call His love by different names—grace, good will, Christ—but in the end, God is only Love. Not the human passion, not the butterflies of romance. But the awesome power and majesty of the Word that creates and re-creates. We return love to God by loving one another as God loves us—sacrificially, selflessly, without counting the costs. You must be a Gift, freely given, not stored up as a possession or loaned out for gain, but recklessly, boldly handed over. Then, you will rest—imperishable—permanently stored with the treasures of God.

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  1. Kind of glad I didn't hear this homily this morning . . . it might have rendered me speechless for the rest of the day! I sure have a talkative G.A. :-)

    1. Shelly, no one heard it! Dcn John wasn't on the schedule, so I prepared a homily. But he showed up, so he preached.