Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!” This warning of our Lord is indeed so true. The eye is the window of the soul and the body. What we see will determine how we think and what we think will be conceived in words and actions. Hence, if we see things both in the physical sense and in the intellectual sense wrongly, then our hearts will be skewed into desiring the wrong things. This will lead us to our ultimate destruction and even that of our loved ones. So if we were to ask why are we so shortsighted to seek the things of the world just to satisfy the flesh and allow our soul to die, then it is simply because we are blinded by pride, fear, prejudice, envy and greed!
This was the case of Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah. She was obsessed with power and even had her grandchildren, the children of Ahaziah, her son, killed so that she could grab power. Indeed, power and glory and perhaps fear of her enemies consumed her, so much so that anyone who was perceived to be a threat to her power was murdered. She was so blinded by her thirst for power and control that she would even kill her own loved ones. This is unthinkable, but that is the truth of obsession. As Jesus says in the gospel, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart also.” The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
This desire for power is so real, both within and without the Church. The thirst for power exists not only in the secular, corporate and political world. It is present very subtly even in religious life. Often, the Church is divided because priests, religious and the laity fight for power and control over their organizations. In the name of God, all kinds of sins are committed, such as, slander, distortion of facts, false accusations, manipulation and even the use of threats and coercion. Everyone is purportedly working for the good of the Church, but in truth, it is for their own glory and security. They desire power in their hearts but their eyes are so blinded that they cannot recognize their true desire. It is sad, but politicking is a reality in Church life and this is entirely against the gospel values where the Lord asks us to choose the lowest place and be a humble servant of all.
Perhaps we are not consumed by power and fear like Athaliah; but we could be consumed by material things and worldly pleasures. This is what Jesus warns us in the gospel, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.” We think that worldly pleasure is sufficient to keep us happy and satisfied. The truth is that nothing in this world can fill the vacuum and the desire of the human heart.
What is it that moths can destroy if not the beautiful clothes that we wear? When we buy and hoard all these beautiful fine silk clothes, moths will destroy them. They do not last. Such things cannot bring us lasting happiness. Clothes will get old and out of fashion and we will have to discard them. This is why we are never satisfied with material things. When we move into a big bungalow, we are happy for a few months, but soon we take it for granted and tire of it. It is true for those who buy big luxury cars as well. Initially they feel great driving it, but the happiness wears off after some time. Likewise, we get tired of our tech gadgets, TV, our mobile phones, etc. For this reason, we keep on changing them because they cannot satisfy us any longer.
Those who are obsessed with food and pleasure will be left dulled after reaching satiation point. Food has a diminishing pleasure. The more we eat, even of the best foods, the less pleasurable it becomes. Indeed, the things of this world cannot sustain our pleasure for long. We go for better and newer foods. After some time, we get so sick of good and rich foods that we go back to the simple food of the ordinary folks, such as porridge and a bowl of noodles. This is true also for sex and wine. There is a certain limit after which we lose our interest and our desire. When the climax or saturation point is reached, we quickly sink into the doldrums. Indeed, those who are consumed by lust, gluttony and sloth are reduced to the level of animals.
What are those things that thieves can steal? People can steal our things, property and intellectual rights. But the most devious thieves are those who can rob us of our peace, joy and love. When we allow pride, anger and envy to consume us, we lose our peace because pride, revenge and envy will eat into us. There is no joy in our hearts but only bitterness. When we allow lust and greed to consume us, we lose our joy because we cannot love others or share our love with them. A man can lose many things in life, but when he loses himself, he has lost everything. That is what Jesus meant when He remarked, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mt 16:26)
The wisdom of St James’ advice is timely when he remarked that even those in the religious world can use spiritual powers for earthly gains, but to their own destruction. He wrote, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:6-10)
So what treasure should we seek in life if not the treasure that is kept safe for us in heaven? When we seek heavenly things, we will never get tired of them and always hunger for more. When we seek heavenly things, we experience joy, peace, love, generosity, goodness and kindness in our hearts. (Cf Gal 5:22) Indeed, when we spend time basking in the love of God or our loved ones, we just want to be with them forever. When we read something inspiring and uplifting, like the Word of God, we want to keep on reading because it nourishes our soul and keeps us hungering for more. When we are generous with the poor and serve unconditionally in love, the joy that we receive in touching the hearts of others is so much greater than what we can receive from our worldly success and the honours bestowed upon us by the world.
So let us store treasures not in our houses or in the banks but in our hearts. If we build ourselves up and have a good character, no one can steal from us. If we increase in knowledge, wisdom and understanding, no one can take them from us. They can rob us of material things but they cannot take what belongs to us. That is why cultivating a life of virtue, a life of wisdom, love and compassion is the best treasure that we can store in this life. Such treasures will also see themselves into the next life because these are the only things we can bring with us when we die. Only charity and its fruits that constitute the life of the “Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice and peace” will last. (GS 39) Let us therefore humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His wisdom and love by focusing our eyes on the Lord and seek guidance from Him, for as the psalmist says, “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:104f)