Last summer at this time, we are in the midst of house renovations. It is amazing how fast the time went. We moved into our newly built, Florida home which was newly built in 1999. Within the past twenty years, how much updating our house needed and is still in need of! Over the past year we tore up rugs, sealed leaks and filled cracks in the floor, dusted, spackled, sanded, and painted, put in new flooring and kitchen counter tops. At the same time, as we had to move items around, we realized how much we have been weighed down with that which we gathered, saved, and held on to, more than is necessary and so in addition to the above improvements over the past year we began to purge, sell, and give away items.
Over the past twenty years, our three children have all grown and are now all living in California. Also, on a sadder note our three Golden Retrievers are no longer with us, JoAnn’s mother and two of her aunts, and all of my grandparents have also died and as of the Wednesday of Holy Week, my wife, JoAnn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We are now living in Los Angeles to be closer to our adult children so to enjoy our time together while we can.
These opening thoughts are a sketch of the practical reality expressed in my life that highlights the words of Jesus from the first section of our Gospel from Matthew this morning: Jesus said to his disciples: “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” (Mt 6:19-21). Jesus is helping his disciples then and us today to be aware of the reality of our world. All that exists is finite and material. Each thing, each being, has a beginning and an end. We need to resist the temptation to be attached to anything, even to our family and friends, because in this life nothing lasts forever.
There is a good in non attachment to material things as long as we do not embrace the opposite extreme of placing no value in created things, thinking that we can destroy and abuse the environment, exploit each other, because neither will not last anyway. We can also be tempted to see all things not spiritual as corrupt and bad, even our material reality as human beings, such that our soul is imprisoned until we die. This extreme will not bring us happiness, joy or fulfillment either.
Living a life directed by the Gospel is to embrace a more balanced life of recognizing that all that is material and finite is good, yet each has a time and a season. We have the opportunity and invitation to be participants in God’s eternal plan of salvation, while we embrace and enjoy the wonders and gifts of his creation without holding on too tight.
It is better to resist grasping at and clutching anything material and finite, so to be less weighed down by them. In this way, we can be freer to embrace the steady movement of the Holy Spirit, which is ever fresh and anew. The Holy Spirit seeks to lead us to change and to mature in our relationship with our loving God and Father and one another, so to store up our true treasure which is in heaven.
Embracing the reality that our time here on earth is limited, Jesus calls us to resist taking one another for granted or worse belittling, demeaning, and dehumanizing one another. As disciples, we are to empower and show greater appreciation for each other, strive to be present and accompany one another, seek to be kinder, more supportive, and encourage one another. We need to let the petty things go and embrace the love that Jesus inspires us to live, so to be there for one another through thick and thin.
What has helped JoAnn and me during this time when her days on this earth are even more limited is that we have become thankful and more appreciative of the time we have together. We are setting our sights on the promised land of heaven, and our true vocation of Matrimony, which is to support each other in embracing the truth that we are called to be co-redeemers with Jesus, so that we may help and be there for one another now in this life, while we prepare for the next. As we journey together, we are preparing to “store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:20).