In today's Gospel Jesus tells us, "Store up treasure in heaven". In the passage of Saint Luke's Gospel that we read last week; Jesus told the story of a rich man who tried to store up treasure for himself on earth. He pulled down his barns and built bigger ones that he filled with grain thinking that he would be secure for years to come. But that very night his life was required of him and he could take nothing of his wealth with him. Last week was about what not to do and this week is about what to do.
The story is told of a very wealthy woman, an heiress, who lived a life of great luxury and privilege on earth. When she died, she appeared before Saint Peter at the Pearly Gate. It took Saint Peter a little while, but he finally found her name in the Book of Life. He opened the gate and welcomed the woman to heaven and said that he would escort her to the place that had been prepared for her.
She gazed in amazement at the sight before her eyes. The streets were paved with gold and stately mansions lined either side of the street. She looked to her left and was amazed to see Milly, the woman who used to clean her house, sitting in a swing enjoying a glass of lemonade. Milly waved in welcome. The woman could only imagine what her place would look like if Milly had inherited such a beautiful mansion.
Saint Peter turned a comer and the street became a bit narrower and the houses a bit less grandiose - still beautiful, but nothing compared to the main boulevard. She recognized Joe, the man who used to deliver her groceries, standing proudly in front of a beautifully manicured lawn. He, too, waved in welcome.
Once again Saint Peter turned another comer and the street was paved with asphalt but rivetted with potholes, which made the woman think she was back in Indianapolis. The houses were much humbler, and the woman became concerned that Saint Peter had made a terrible mistake. She recognized Madge from her country club, looking at her from her living room window. They pretended not to notice each other.
But before she could say anything, they turned another comer and the road became mud and the houses were tumbling down shacks. Saint Peter stopped in front of the worst of all the shacks and put the woman's suitcase down by the door. She stared in disbelief and knew that Saint Peter had made a mistake. She asked Peter if he had any idea who she was. And checking his records, he affirmed that she was the famous heiress and that this was the place that had been prepared for her. And the woman asked how it was possible that after living a life of luxury on earth, she was expected to spend eternity in a hovel like the one she was staring at. And Peter, as politely as he could, told her: "My dear lady, I am so sorry, but this was all that we could build for you with the materials that you sent ahead."
"Store up for yourself treasure in heaven."
And then Jesus tells us that we know not the day or the hour when he will return for us. "Blessed are those servants the Master finds vigilant on his arrival.
A cardinal rule of warfare is, "Know your enemy." Let's listen in on strategy session of the enemy. An ambitious young devil was boasting to a senior devil of his strategy to conquer the world for Satan. His strategy was to convince people that there is no God. But the senior devil scoffed at the idea telling the junior devil that that strategy would never work. "As foolish as they are," he said, "all people have to do is to look around at the beauty and the order of creation, admire a sunrise or be present at the birth of child and they will know that there is a God.
The junior devil countered with a second proposal and that was that he would convince people that the devil didn't exist. The senior devil scoffed at that proposal as well saying that all people would have to do was to open the morning newspaper or turn on network news and they would know the devil exists.
But then the senior devil shared with the junior devil his strategy. "Don't try to convince people that there is no God and don't try to convince them that there is no deviL Instead convince them that there is no hurry." The senior devil is on to something! As foolish as we human beings are, we do know most of the time that there is a God and we know, all too well, that evil exists. Our folly is that we all too often think that we have all the time in the world to do the good that we are called to do. We are lulled by the devil into a false sense of security and then suddenly time runs out.
We know not the day nor the hour. Blessed are those servants the Master finds vigilant on his return.
I think Stephen Grellet, an 18th century French Quaker missionary must have had this admonition of Jesus in mind when he wrote these famous words:
"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now.
Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
And the third point that Jesus makes in today's Gospel is for me one of those most haunting passages of scripture. Jesus tells us much will be required of the person entrusted with much. The servant who knew what the master wanted but failed to act in accord with the master's wishes, will receive a more severe punishment than the servant who did not know the master's wishes and did not fulfill them.
Those words frighten me because we are the people to whom much has been given. In Jesus God has revealed his will for us. We know the commandments, we have heard the beatitudes, we know the end to which we are called. No one of us can say that we don't know what God wants from us. God wants to see and love in us what he sees and loves in Jesus. The question for us is not not knowing what God wants from us. There are people in our world who have never heard of the commandments or the beatitudes or the glory that awaits us as our end. But that cannot be said of any of us. "To whom much has been given, much will be required. "
Never lose sight of the end. And with that glorious end in mind, Jesus teaches us:
- "Store up treasure in heaven".
- "You know not the day nor the hour. Blessed are those servants the Master find vigilant on his return."
- "To whom much has been given, much will be required."