Finding the Treasure

This Sunday’s Gospel makes for difficult reading during the "dog days" of summer. It speaks of things we would rather gently put aside: simple lifestyle, almsgiving, readiness for the return of the Lord, faithful use of the time given us and warnings of punishment. The beginning of today’s Gospel (vv. 32-34) is actually the conclusion of the long section on proper use of possessions that began in last week’s Gospel. In the section of Chapter 12 omitted from the Lectionary (vs. 22-31), Jesus proclaims freedom from material anxieties and radical trust in God, who cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (see Mt. 6:25-34), and concludes with an exhortation to seek real treasures with God, for "where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." The biblical "heart" is the center of a person’s being and designates what is most important. Luke here also reflects Jewish wisdom teaching in which true treasures are "righteousness which delivers from death" (Prov. 10:2) and wisdom, which fills a person’s house with treasure (Prov. 24:2).

The Gospel then continues with a number of sayings on the fragility of the future and the need for responsible stewardship by Jesus’ followers during his absence. Freedom from care and the desire for wealth and power, together with a heart transformed, are prerequisites for responsible leadership in the community. Misuse of an office for one’s own advantage and abuse of others will bring about severe punishment when the returning Lord will place that servant "with the unfaithful."

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Today the church is widely involved in training people for ministry and diverse forms of stewardship. The readings underscore fundamental aspects of such formation. Hebrews portrays faith as "realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things unseen," and the Gospel speaks of true treasures. Every program of formation, from parish to seminary, must be, like Abraham’s journey in Hebrews, a pilgrimage of faith, which prepares a treasured person with a transformed heart.

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