Perhaps those words were on the mind of Saint Cyprian as he wrote about those who would store up treasure in “earthly” riches:
Their property held them in chains…chains which shackled their courage and choked their faith and hampered their judgment and throttled their souls. If they stored up treasure in heaven, they would not now have an enemy and a thief within their household. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.
Regarding treasure, Our Lord Jesus Christ was crystal clear:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Mt 6:19-21)
In these two verses, Jesus pours out not just words upon us; but rather, true wisdom. For if we have the capacity to receive these words from Sacred Scripture and make them our own, they will surely guide us on our journey of, as Bishop Fulton Sheen remarked, a life worth living.
A lifestyle that will ensure a richness to our lives.
A lifestyle that will make us the recipient of treasure that will not break, tarnish, or fade away.
A lifestyle that will lead us down a path whereby our riches will not be measured by what we accumulate, but rather, on how much we give away.
Especially— of ourselves.
I remember it was a sunny October afternoon when I received a phone call from my mother that my grandmother had died. For me, it has always been true that when someone passes, images of that person flow across my memory. My grandmother was a person who had both sacrificed and suffered a great deal. The mother of a dozen children (and nearly forty grandchildren, with me being the oldest), in her early twenties she faced the sudden and tragic death of her first husband. With limited resources, she was forced to re-create a life for herself and two small children. A few years later, she once more fell in love, married, and opened herself to ten more children. Throughout her life, although all too infrequently, her oldest grandson would ask her the “secret to life.” While already knowing her answer, I nevertheless enjoyed hearing her proclaim it: her love of and trust in Jesus Christ!
Following her funeral Mass, I began the day-long drive home from Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Along the way, I was provided the grace of silence in which to contemplate her life amidst the colorful leaves that had taken center stage across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With nature revealing her glory, I remembered that when I was a child, she would give me small gifts or money—on special occasions. But mostly, my recollections were of the times we spent together in simple sharing: pancake breakfasts, gatherings at the lake, picking strawberries, or chats over coffee and homemade pie. The latter was my favorite for it was during those moments we would recount our stories of faith. And when it came time to part ways, I remember that our goodbyes and I love you’s were more powerful than any I’ve ever experienced. Given the vast miles that separated us, perhaps we both wondered whether that moment would be our last.
At the cemetery, as the priest prayed the final blessings, my grandmother’s casket was lowered gently and slowly into it’s final resting place. Although her human life had come to an end, her eternal life had just begun. In the end, while she did not leave behind a million-dollar investment portfolio and vacation homes for distribution to the living, she left something far more valuable: gifts and memories of herself.
Something eternal and not easily contained within the confines of two square yards.