Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF
Claretian Publications, Macau
The instructions of Jesus in today’s Gospel follow the theme of the Gospel reading of last Sunday on identifying what is most valuable. The context was an inheritance dispute last week, and Jesus related the story of the rich fool to say that the kingdom of God is more valuable than one’s inheritance, more valuable than all the riches of this world. Today, the Lord invites the disciples to get ready for the Kingdom of God by selling what one owns and giving it to the poor. These texts emerge from the early Christian community’s belief that the Day of the Lord would occur soon and they had to be prepared for it.
Before we deal with the kingdom’s treasure, I am personally amused by how Jesus addresses the group of his followers as “little flock.” Jesus is aware of the smallness of the Church and the possibility of it continuing in smaller numbers. Some creatures survive merely on the number of their progeny. Crabs, salmons and sea turtles use their numbers for survival. Sardines and mackerels are examples of survival by numbers. Even if dolphins and other large predatory fishes gulp a large school of them, a remnant will survive. Survival by numbers. But Jesus does not count numbers. Remember he told us the story of the shepherd who goes in search of the one lost sheep, leaving the ninety-nine behind. He knows that it takes only a few, so a little salt in food or one lamp in the darkness is all that is required for the world to obtain its taste and light. He wants his followers to be just that.
The smallness in numbers could lead people into paralyzing inaction, underestimating the significance of their size and effects of anything they could possibly achieve. Jesus reminds the little flock of the importance of caring for others with all the resources one has. It is the key to unlock the greatest treasure ever, the inheritance to the Kingdom of God.
Taking up the challenge of Jesus to sell all one has is possible only for those who are preoccupied with the concerns of God, of his kingdom. In psychotherapy, psychologists give special attention to Freudian slips. These are words that inadvertently appear awkwardly in conversations. These words most often refer to what the mind is preoccupied with. Jesus talks about the preoccupation of the mind with an infallible dictum to read one’s mind. Where one’s mind is, there one’s treasure is. What one considers as treasure is identifiable by what one’s preoccupations are, or by analyzing the thoughts that occur in high frequency and duration. Sometimes, people are unaware of their actual preoccupations. I remember talking to a drug addict. As he explained, it became very clear that from morning till evening he had only one thought – where he would get the money for his next shot. But he never admitted that he was addicted to it! When one craves for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, one becomes prepared to sell all one has.
The encouragement of the Lord to sell all that one has is often misinterpreted as the gospel of inaction. If the Lord’s coming is so soon, it would be futile to work and save food or money for anything. It would be futile to sow seeds if the day of the Lord comes before the harvest, was the regressive argument of those who followed the notion of inaction. In fact, some people in Thessalonica believed in inaction as a preparation for the day of the Lord. Saint Paul, therefore, admonishes them to go on working quietly without interfering in the work of others (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
The parable of the master who went to the wedding feast is more a gospel of vigilant action than a gospel of inaction. The servants are asked to take care of the household entrusted to them with diligence and without laziness and drunkenness. The story of Jesus about the foolish rich man that we heard last Sunday is typically the sign of a person of inaction. He celebrates his life with pleasures and enjoyment. The story depicts the futility of a self-seeking life. “If your life is taken away from you today, whose will be all your assets?”
With the question of the disciples, if the parable was meant for all or for the disciples, Jesus clarifies the role of the leaders in the Church. They are entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the house of God. They are stewards and are called to be active agents to keep the house in order.
Going back to the treasure question, what do we carry home from the discussion about heavenly treasure? It is very likely that we develop an idea of the Kingdom of God as a material treasure from these narratives. This treasure has something to do with heavenly joy inherited for actively caring for one’s neighbors or those entrusted to your care. If one has to exit this world without leaving any good deeds for others to recount, that would be a miserable end.