“Where your Heart is: Desire and Eternity” (8/4/2019)
Memorial of St. John Vianney
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” These words of Jesus capture what our Gospel is getting at today. The rich man of the parable who is storing up his treasure in bigger barns is not only placing his harvest in the barn, but he’s also placing his heart within those barns. A dark, damp storage barn is no place for our heart. A bank account is no place for our heart. Our heart is made for God, and only God will satisfy it. We are to be rich in what matters to God, storing up our treasure with God in heaven. Then we will find satisfaction in this life but also a satisfaction that will continue into eternity.
Jesus says, “though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Rather true life consists in our relationship with God, and this trickles down to our relationships with one another. Our family, friends, and neighbor. Love of God and love of neighbor. These are true life and true riches that will last into eternity.
And we never know when God will say to us what he said to the man in the parable, “This night, your life will be demanded of you.” For us, will it be tonight? Tomorrow night? Some day it will be out time. “ This night, your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” To have possessions is fine, but that’s not where true life is found. To be rich is fine, but we must also be rich in what matters to God.
Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. And only God can satisfy our hearts. So we want our treasure to be with him. We want God to be our treasure. For then our heart will be fixed on him and find its happiness.
So our Gospel is saying something more than just that greed is bad. It’s saying make God your treasure. For, even natural human reason knows that greed is a bad thing. There is a story from Aesop’s Fables that shows this. It says, “A dog was carrying a piece of meat in his mouth to eat it in peace at home. On his way he had to cross a bridge across a brook. As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own reflection in the water. Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also. So he made a snap at the shadow in the water, but as he opened his mouth the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water and was lost.”
Aesop knows greed is a bad thing. Greed brings about an unhealthy attachment for something. We become needy for it, obsessed with it, blinded by it.
This is largely human wisdom. But our Readings today bring a Christian dimension to it all. Not earthly riches, but God should be our highest treasure. Jesus says we should be rich in what matters to God. What matters to God? Love and devotion to him. Faithfulness to his commandments. Loving service of our neighbor. We are to be rich in such matters.
Our Second Reading basically echoes Jesus’ words about having our treasure in heaven. It says, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This speaks of what happened at our Baptism, at our coming to belong to God in Christ. We have died with Christ and live with him even now where he is with God the Father. And this will last forever. It’s good to return to this eternal perspective at times.
It is said, “Tell me what you love and I will tell you who you are.” We could also say, “Tell me what you desire and I will tell you who you are.” If we desire money to the excess, if we are greedy, that shapes who we are. If we desire God that makes us godly. A man or woman of God. Desire shapes who we are. And our little choices in life determine our desires.
By our choices, by our acts of desire, it’s like we add another weight on the balance. And over time, with these choices, the balance shifts to one direction or another. Our decisions add on weight to our desires until we habitually tend in that direction. We may even fall in that direction because so much weight has built up there. In every choice we make, we increase our desire in that direction, which makes us tend evermore forcefully in that direction.
For instance, We choose to keep the wrong change that was given to us at the store, and thus we grow in our desire for money. Or, on the other hand, we choose to stay after Mass for a mere minute longer to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God, and thus we grow in our desire for God. Little choices like this throughout our lives increase our desires in one direction or another. And our desires make us who we are. “Tell me what you desire and I will tell you who you are”
It’s a beautiful thing when our desire for God grows day after day. St John Vianney, whose feast is today, has a lovely prayer, where we see such desire for God, extending to his last breath, when his life is demanded of him. It captures well what our Gospel is getting at. So I leave you with this prayer of St John Vianney.
“I love you, O my God. My only desire is to love you, until the last breath of my life. I love you, O infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you than to live for one single moment without loving you. I love you, O my God, and the only reason why I wish to go to heaven is because there I will be able to love you perfectly. I love you, O my God, and the only reason why I fear hell is because there I will never have the sweet joy of loving you.
O my God, if my tongue cannot say at every moment that I love you, at least I want my heart to repeat it to you every time I breathe. Oh! Grant me the grace to suffer out of love for you and to love you when I suffer, and that when I breathe my last, I will not only love you, but will experience it in my heart. I beg you that, as I come closer to my final end, you will increase and perfect my love for you. Amen.”