Last Sunday the Evangelist Luke challenged us to hear God’s question about what we have stored up and for whose benefit is it stored, for ourselves or for God? Today’s gospel proclamation is from that same chapter of Luke and continues the same theme, hence Jesus’ declaration, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” Not to be possessed by our possessions is certainly the goal, and greed for material wealth is to be avoided at all costs; for unbridled greed would be on the same plane as addiction and bring with it all the complications of needing to decide to get help and to be in recovery.
But what is the other side of this coin in our treasury? It is what the saints and the spiritual guides of the ages came to describe as “a spirit of detachment.” Saints like Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, or our own St. Rita, detached themselves completely—”left everything behind”—to dedicate themselves without distraction to Jesus’ mission and to answer his call to build the kingdom of God on earth. There is, however, another very valuable way to live a spirit of detachment from those things that will ultimately pass away and disappoint. Saint Paul pretty much sums it up when he instructs us “to be in the world but not of it.” There are those people in this world who are indeed very wealthy, but who could not live with themselves if they did not know that their wealth was being managed with the intent “to give back” and “to make a difference.” Such people have arrived at a profound understanding of what it means to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and work for justice. They understand that this is about storing up treasure in heaven.
The most important byproduct for one who lives the spirit of detachment is FREEDOM—the freedom to serve and ultimately the freedom to be in the world but not of it.
Like most things in the spiritual life of a true Christian, living a spirit of detachment is a balancing act and an exercise in wisdom. At this time of year, many parents are seeing their offspring go off to college. Important, life changing, and (hopefully) wise decisions have been made. What a joy it is when both parents and their college bound children demonstrate a certain joy in choices that have been made in the interest of a career that will serve and make the world a better place. Would that more would be so detached as to encourage vocations to service in our Church! For sure the seeds of a spirit of detachment would have to have been firmly planted for a decision like that to be made.
Like last Sunday, we are left with a question: Where exactly does my treasure—and therefore my heart—reside? It is a question that in Jesus’ way of seeing things is the same for the king or for the pauper. And if I get that, I am already at least half way to true discipleship.