Great Lent:


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. . .
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . .
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
--Matthew 6:19, 20, 21


Where does your treasure lie? That question is on little Lucy’s mind in a Charlie Brown comic strip. She says to Charlie Brown, “I have a lot of questions about life, and I’m not getting any answers! I want some real honest-to-goodness answers. I don’t want a lot of opinions, I want answers!” To which Charlie Brown replies, “Would true or false be all right?”

Where does your treasure lie? Don’t intellectualize your answer—“True or False” will not be all right. So let us try now to come up with some honest-to-goodness, straight from the heart answers! What is your number one heart’s desire? What is your “Pearl of Great Price?” Where do you position yourself in the hustle and bustle of today’s fiercely competitive, materialistic Society? Who or what have you designated as the first priority in your life? In other words: What makes your life tick? What keeps you going? What is your life all about?

According to a corporate marketing survey on people’s priorities these days, “Financial Security” leads the list. The number one priority is money. This came through in a variety of ways. Some people described it as “getting ahead.” For others, it was “getting the kids through college,” or “buying a new house,” or “being able to afford more leisure time for travel and vacations.” The list goes on and on. But for the most part, the dominant priority is money.

A professional fund-raiser was presenting the details of a plan to improve a certain church’s financial condition. Members of the Finance Committee listened respectfully to the expert’s presentation of a plan to convert their unorganized, informal fund-raising approach into a highly-organized system. The speaker explained how a formal budget is prepared. He revealed a plan for a pledge campaign. He talked about “envelopes” and “follow-up letters” and “good bookkeeping practices” and all the rest. When he had finished the presentation, a heavy feeling permeated the room. No one responded. No questions were asked. Undaunted, the fundraiser repeated the whole exercise. When it was over again, a parishioner responded, “There’s a catch in it.” The expert replied, “But I tried to make it very plain and simple.” Then the parishioner said, “Oh you made it plain and simple, all right, but there’s a catch in it. There’s deceit in your plan. It’s plain to see that if we accept this system we’re all going to end up paying more and giving more than we intend.”

That shrewd observation was 100% on target! Very rarely do we do more than we intend. Our intention determines what we do. And so, at the heart of Jesus’ invitation to reflect on our priorities is the question, “Do you want to do more than you presently intend?” Do you want to lead the new life Christ is offering you now?

It is possible that in coming to church we can give the appearance of good intentions. It may appear to others that we intend to be Jesus’ loyal followers (Matthew 5:19). It may appear to others that we intend to do God’s Will in all things (Matthew 6:10). It may appear to others that we intend to be obedient to Jesus’ command: “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). But appearances can be deceiving. And if these are not our true intentions, if anything other than God’s Kingdom is our number one priority, we’re fooling one another—but never God: Where our treasure is, there will be our heart also.

Day after day we conduct our life’s treasure hunt in one direction or another. We are responsible for the direction it takes. The question therefore is this: Are we more interested in strengthening our willpower this Great Lent to “walk in His holy ways”—to follow and participate in what the Church prescribes—or in weakening our conscience by doing it our way? It is a question of intention, for a deep inner intention is where the Orthodox Christian life begins.

God bless. . . Father Michael

(The Mustard Seed Quarterly, Vol. 12, issue 3, St. Gregory the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church, Mansfield, Massachusetts)

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