Waste Your Heart On Jesus

treasure of goldRecently I attended a wedding in a grand old cathedral.  Even without the lush flowers and glowing candles put in place for the wedding, the setting was magnificent.  High arches, richly-colored marble floors and stunning stained glass windows were breathtakingly beautiful.  The altar was huge, also of marble, and elaborately decorated with gold embellishments.  Everywhere I looked there was beauty.  The effect of all that beauty was to raise my thoughts and my heart to the Lord, Who is the source of all beauty.  Later over dinner at the wedding reception, the conversation turned to the lavish Cathedral environment.  Several people commented on the beauty of the place and how amazing it must be to worship in a space like that each week.  One man, though, seemed almost angry at what he called “the huge waste of money” invested in marble and gold.  He wasn’t Catholic, so he didn’t know what the tabernacle was for, and pointed out “that big gold box” near the altar and wondered “if they keep their money locked up in it.”  I didn’t tell him that, indeed, our greatest Treasure was inside the tabernacle, since I knew he wasn’t open to hearing about the Eucharist just then.  Most of the folks at the table laughed at his commentary and the conversation quickly moved on to other, lighter topics.
As Catholics, most of us have heard these kinds of comments before.  After all, some of the world’s grandest and most lushly-appointed Christian churches in the world belong to us (I won’t point out the golden, bejeweled temples of many of the world’s other religions).  I’ve talked with people who truly believe that the Chair of Peter in St. Peter’s basilica is really made of solid gold.  Actually, the visible chair, made of bronze and not gold, holds the relic of an oaken chair used by St. Peter.  Still, our Church is often criticized for what many people consider “hoarding” treasure of gold, art, and jewels rather than selling it to help the poor.  Facts are, most of the artwork is held in trust by the Church and not owned outright by it.  Each diocese around the world owns the buildings, etc. in it, not the Vatican anyway.  Aside from the legal facts, there’s a bigger issue involved here.
From the beginnings of the Church, believers have been called to make art as a way of giving glory to God.  In the Jewish tradition, temples and priestly vestments and utensils were made of precious materials as God instructed them to be ( 2 Chronicles).  God knows that the beauty of the world works on our human senses because He created beauty AND our senses.  We’re drawn to the beautiful because it reflects His beauty.  Over the centuries, the Church has given much of Her treasure (and continues to do so today) to help the poor in many ways.  No one can dispute that more people have been educated, given health care, housing and food by the Catholic Church than by any other charitable institution in the world. I think many people struggle with the Church’s wealth because they struggle with this in their own hearts and lives.
We remember the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus (Matthew 19:16-26) and the accusations of waste by the dinner guests when Mary anoints Christ with her costly perfume (John 12:1-8).  In both moments, Christ calls to us to love (and to give) without counting the cost.  Does He mean we should all give away everything we own?  Of course not.  Most of us have families to provide for and obligations to be met, so we need to balance our charity with our vocation in life.  Prudence is the key.  It’s okay to have “things” so long as your things don’t have you.  Giving to the Lord of our time, our talents, and our treasure, not only expresses gratitude to God for His gifts to us, but giving reminds us that the things of the world don’t own us.  God doesn’t need our money, but we need to give it away. 
When we’re in love with Christ, we want to give Him everything.  And the BEST of everything.  So we build Him grand Cathedrals and we will them with the world’s most beautiful paintings and statues and mosaics and frescoes.  Our greatest composers dedicate their music to Him.  Like Mary, we give Him our best and we give it lavishly.  No price of silver or gold can ever match the price that God has paid for each one of us.  Heaven celebrates whenever one of us gives ourselves away to Him.  So go ahead, waste all you have, waste all that you are, on Jesus.  
“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, and understanding,and my whole will.  All that I am and all that I possess You have given me.  I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will.  Give me only Your love and Your grace; and with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    –                                 –St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits


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