of Creighton University's Online Ministries
June 17th, 2011
Howie Kalb, S.J.
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In today’s gospel it is good to differentiate between which of Jesus’ words are to be understood literally and which are to be taken analogously. Jesus begins by telling us that “earthly treasures” are vulnerable to corrosion by moth and rust as well as to thieves who break in and steal. That’s definitely a literal statement. Any thinking person knows how true that is. Remember the saying “You never see a hearse towing a trailer on the way to the cemetery”? Money and houses, Black Angus and vineyards, like all of this world’s treasures will eventually perish.
On the other hand, “storing up treasure in heaven” makes a lot of sense. But should it be understood literally? Does anyone believe there’s a banker in heaven putting away treasure for us in a lockbox waiting for us to die and claim it? We’ve all known Catholics who have been making the Nine First Fridays since they made their First Communion and are still doing so at age ninety. Others spend every November 2nd, the Feast of the Holy Souls, gaining another plenary indulgence for their parents who died decades ago. Bigger numbers don’t necessarily increase the “treasure in heaven”.
Let’s not underestimate the value in practicing virtue, loving our neighbors or offering our prayers. Prayers, indulgences, sacraments and graces can, should and must be treasured and collected again and again during our lifetime. Just don’t imagine the quantity is literally being stored up for you in a bank vault in heaven.
So if literally “storing up treasure in heaven” is not the purpose of a virtuous life then what is the reason for living according to Jesus’ teaching? It seems to me the “treasure in heaven” that Jesus talks about is the personal and intimate relationship we are developing with the Lord. Again, the “treasure in heaven” is the process whereby we share in Jesus’ divine life by living virtuously while we are here on earth.
This spiritual growth and closer intimacy with our Lord here in this life is our way of “storing up treasure in heaven.” Unless we recognize our attraction to Jesus increasing, our resolve to fulfill his plan is more consistent and our desire to join with him in everlasting life is growing; it seems we still don’t grasp Jesus’ request for us to collect “treasure in heaven.” And although literally Jesus’ words, “treasure in heaven,” may be confusing, still if we accept them, as Jesus intended, their meaning becomes his literal command.
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