Image: Treasure lies at the end of the road, sunset on the Dempster Highway
Our feast today has us remembering St. James the apostle and the lessons he learned from walking with Jesus. The gospel recounts the story of James and his brother seeking power and prestige. Jesus grants their wish but not in the way that they were asking. For them, power was something to be found in this life, honor and glory were meant to be experienced now. But Jesus reminds us that our true glory awaits us in heaven and that the only real power is that which is in the hands of the Father.
One line from the letter of St. Paul is enough to reflect on this morning. “We are only earthen vessels holding a treasure”.
Paul uses the metaphor to speak about our mortal bodies which, while intricate in their design, are essentially built of the dust of the earth. If we were to break down all of the building blocks that constitute our physical being, we would find about five major elements, along with a longer list of trace elements all of which are easily available and would probably cost less than $1000 to purchase. So, this is our vessel, made from the most common stuff and ready to return to the earth when its useful life is over. But herein lies the treasure.
First, reflect on how we are made. There is nothing we can imagine that is more intricately designed than the human body. From those common elements an organic machine has been formed which outshines our greatest technological advancements. A modern airliner contains millions of components all working in harmony with one another to carry hundreds of people aloft in the air and transport them around the globe. But this pales in comparison to the human brain which easily hold that many components in one cubic centimetre of its volume and contributes to a mind that can conceive and execute a plan to build that airliner in the first place.
Then, from those essential elements, we have come to have a deeply complex emotional state that motivates us and helps us to survive. What machine, that we have built, can speak with us from experience about love and joy, fear and anger, sadness and despair. How do we begin to account for the bond that holds together; husband and wife, parents and children, friends who share a lifetime of experiences?
Then there is the treasure that Paul speaks about, the treasure of our spirit that lies at the core of who we truly are. The treasure hidden by our creator and protected by this earthen vessel that God has formed, in order to house that which is beyond all earthly value. This treasure has not been abandoned and forgotten like some pirate’s loot. It is a living treasure containing the life of Jesus.
One day our earthly bodies will cease to function, and they will return to the earth from where they came. But this living treasure will not face the same fate. Its destiny is to return to a heavenly place, which we can only imagine, but of which we can be sure.
As we contemplate the amazing gift of our life, let us be grateful for another day and resolve not to take it for granted. Let us enter into it with reverence for that indelible spirit which is alive within us and which points us to our eternal home and the unconditional love or our creator. What marvels the Lord has worked for us, let us indeed be glad.