Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.”
What this really boils down to is asking, “What are your priorities? What is most important in your life?” This is a very difficult challenge for people in our modern culture today because there are so many distractions and temptations that can easily take us away from what is most important.
Unpack the First Reading
This passage comes from the third part of the Book of Wisdom (10–19), which is an interpretive poetic commentary on the way that Wisdom is disclosed in the history of Israel. This is contrasted to the foolishness of polytheism and idolatry. In this case, the Egyptian idolaters are confounded by the secret sacrifices, the Passover Lamb, of the children of Israel. This unblemished young ram, the blood of which was placed on the doorposts of their houses to protect them from the death of the firstborn of Egypt, harkens back to the sacrificial ram that Abraham had been given to ransom or replace his firstborn son, Isaac, in Genesis 22.
So the Israelites had seen “beforehand,” not just the description of the conduct of the Passover ritual as God wanted to carry it out in Egypt, but they had seen it beforehand in the actions of their ancient forebear Abraham, who had trusted God, saying to Isaac, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8, RSV). And so it was that “with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.” Like them, we, too, have been given the oath (the Latin for oath is sacramentum) in which we put our trust, the Holy Eucharist, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” that we might have courage.
Unpack the Second Reading
In this reading we see the famous definition of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” The author of Hebrews connects it clearly to the virtue of hope, which the Catechism defines as that theological virtue “by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness.” That is, faith enables us to realize the eternal happiness we hope for, even though we may not yet see it. So faith has, as a constituent part of its makeup, that trust which enables us to strive for a promise without seeing it.
But the rest of this passage from Hebrews 11 shows us that this trust isn’t usually a blind trust for an entirely blind faith. God has given us many examples of faith to help us see in the past what remains unclear in our own future. Hebrews 11 is a chronicle of faith listing many characters from Israel’s past who braved all kinds of trials to inherit the promise that only comes to be fulfilled in Christ. Here the examples given are Abraham and Sarah for whom God did the impossible, bringing forth fruit in two who were well beyond child-bearing, and then of whom he asked the unthinkable in the offering of that son, Isaac, in sacrifice. Faith enables us to go forward in darkness, yes, but that is because God has thrown so much light behind us in the past heroes of faith, enabling us to hope in what we cannot yet see.
Unpack the Gospel
Jesus here instructs his disciples on the skills required for being a watchman, someone who is prepared for the Lord’s return. First, we are to live in the kingdom, not relying on earthly treasure but on that heavenly treasure that is won by almsgiving. We are also to be vigilant, awake, dressed, and attentive for his coming. The Catechism says that vigilance at prayer is “custody of the heart”
(CCC 2849) and that “in prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory” (CCC 2612).
And for those who are entrusted with the “stewardship” of the Church, or what Jesus calls, “all [the master’s] property,” they must also be sure to be vigilant in supplying the needs of the other servants, “to distribute the food allowance at the proper time” and in not abusing the privileges of office or those over which they exercise it. The whole of Christian history, the history of the Church, is the story of the great night watch. At this point in our collective journey through time, “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” and “the night is far gone, the day is at hand,” (Romans 13:11-12, RSV). We can’t be sure if we are “in the second or third watch” of that night, but the proper Christian stance in any age is that of watchfulness, of earnest Christian living in faith, hope, and love.
Reflect & Discuss
Watch the Opening the Word video "True Treasure" on StMichael.FORMED.org
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” What things in your life do you truly treasure; in other words, what do you spend most of your time, energy, and attention on? Do these things that you treasure—that you spend time and energy on—reflect what is truly most important in life?
In the video, the biblical understanding of almsgiving was presented as giving a loan to God [“He who has compassion on the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his good deed.” Proverbs 19:17]. How is almsgiving like giving a loan to God and what does God do with your “loan”? What does Jesus promise to do to those who generously give him a loan to help the poor and those in need?
The Call to Almsgiving
“But if we are not able to give to those who must depend on the charity of others for their sustenance, it is an act of Christian piety, as well as a means of avoiding idleness, to procure by our labor and industry what is necessary for the relief of the poor. To this the apostle exhorts all by his own example. For yourselves, he says to the Thessalonians, know how you ought to imitate us; and again, writing to the same people: Use your endeavor to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you; and to the Ephesians: He that stole, let him steal no more; but rather let him labor working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffers need.”
—Council of Trent, 1563
Reprinted from Opening the Word Leader Guide with permission from Augustine Institute.