Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,


“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6: 21) are the golden words of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord has used the metaphor of ‘treasure’ to talk to us about eternal life because the human tendency is to accumulate for ourselves wealth, power and positions here on earth in the belief that these alone will give us security, but we are sadly mistaken. These offer us no security because we have to leave this world one day and death is the surest reality of our life. In the parable of the ‘Rich Fool’ (Lk. 12:13-21) the man who has placed his trust in his material wealth is called a ‘fool’ because he laid up treasure for himself on earth and was “not rich toward God”. To be rich toward God is the mark of Christian discipleship and the essence of the Gospel. We have to pray every day that we may not substitute the wisdom of the Gospel which leads to life with worldly wisdom which leads to death. The Lord’s golden rule: “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction… For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life” (Mt. 7:13-14). We have to always ask ourselves: which gate have I chosen or do I choose, the one of life or the one of death?
In his letter to Timothy St. Paul has warned that ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1Tim. 6:10). Further on he says: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1Tim. 6:17-19).
The Lord is very clear in the truth he has enunciated: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21). It is very salutary to ask all the time, ‘where is the treasure I seek and consequently where is my heart; how much time and energy I spend daily on my treasure and whether this treasure relates to the Kingdom of God’?’ What are the deepest concerns of my life that occupy me?
The two commemorations with which we begin the month of November – the feast of All Saints and the remembrance of All Souls – focus on our attention on our true ‘treasure’ and where our ‘heart’ should be. The saints in heaven are those who have lived their ordinary life in an extraordinary way. In the midst of all the temptations of life they have discerned what is eternal and what is passing and have chosen, in the power of the Spirit, the path that leads to salvation. As Our Lord Jesus Christ exhorts us in the Gospel, they have lived their lives in the ‘wisdom’ that comes from the Holy Spirit. They have been like the servant ever awake and alert waiting for the master’s return (cf. Lk. 12: 35-40 ) or like the five wise virgins who not only took their lamps but also extra oil with them (cf. Mt. 25:1-13). The path to salvation is to live the Gospel in our daily life according to the state of life in which God has placed us. This demands tremendous self-sacrifice and self-emptying but that is exactly what makes for sanctity as revealed by Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ does not tell us to despise material security but he warns us regarding our attitude to it lest in our pursuit for earthly pleasure and happiness we remain in the ephemeral and transient and lose sight of the “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”(Mt. 6:20). It was not without reason that the Lord’s public ministry is preceded by his forty days and forty nights of fasting and prayer in the desert where he shunned the temptations of the Evil One to pleasure, wealth, power and popularity. On the contrary he has taught us to live on every word that falls from the mouth of God.
Our ‘treasure’ need not be our material possessions alone but also our ‘ego’ and attachment to it. We may be stubbornly attached to our ways of thinking and acting. ‘Egoism’ is an excessive attention on the ‘self’ and its satisfaction to the neglect of the other people’s points of view, their needs and emotional fulfillment. The attention of a selfish and self-centred person will be more on oneself and very little on the other. Of course such a person will also be a ‘prisoner’ of one’s own ideas, prejudices and attitudes until he/she is ‘released’ from this prison by the healing touch of God. The Gospel of Jesus is the testament of God’s infinite love for broken humanity to liberate us from the power of sin and the clutches of the Evil One and make us truly children of God, filled with grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the undeniable mystery of the cross and the resurrection of which Christ has made us partakers through baptism. Through conversion of heart we enter into a new way of thinking and behaving as people ‘enlightened’ by the divine light and no more walking in darkness. We need to pray for this ‘newness’ to be our way of life all the time lest we go back to our former ways of thinking and behaving. As St. Paul says: “… as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4: 21-24).
The incident of the two sisters Mary and Martha (cf. Lk. 10: 38-42) looks so trivial yet has become part of the inspired word because it encapsulates so powerfully the core message of the Gospel. The figure of Martha in her behaviour may well speak to many of us in our day to day life – stressful and tensed, self-pitying and pouting, angry and complaining, judgmental and condemnatory. On the contrary Mary is seated at the feet of the Lord and listening to every word that falls from his mouth; and the Lord tells Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”. The ‘good portion’ Mary has chosen is to be in communion with the Lord and listen to him. She knows that her treasure is the Lord himself and there could not be anything greater or more valuable in comparison. As the Lord himself has said: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field… Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt. 13: 44). He has also compared it to a pearl of great price.
Mary stands for the mystical and contemplative dimension of our life whereby we live from our ‘depths’ and not superficially. We need to descend into our inner being, our true self i.e. God within us, the indwelling Holy Trinity (cf. Jn. 14:23) in order to live a mature life founded on love.
Joyce Rupp in her book Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self narrates a legend found in various lands in different languages. It tells the story of a person who has an enticing dream of a highly valuable treasure located in a far away land. The dream is repeated until the person has no choice but to go in search of that treasure. The dreamer leaves home and sets out on the long and arduous journey filled with both dangerous and enthralling adventure, never being sure if that which is sought will be found. The story ends with the traveler finally coming to the place where the treasure is supposedly hidden. Instead of finding the treasure there, the seeker meets a stranger at that site who tells about a dream he/she had in which the long-sought treasure is located back at the place where the dreamer originally started out. On hearing this, the dreamer, who has been seeking all those years, now hurries back as quickly as possible to get home. Arriving back at the place of the dream, sure enough, there is the treasure. What the person sought on the arduous journey was there all along!
This legend, according to Rupp, teaches us life’s journey is important. The flow of ups and downs has to be made and we have to come full circle back to the ‘home of our heart’. Though the journey is lengthy, each step of the way offers meaning and direction, bringing us into our deeper self where the finest treasure awaits discovery.
The ‘heart’ as the symbolic centre of our life’s willing is extremely important in the Gospel. Our Lord speaks of those who are ‘pure in heart’ (cf. Mt. 5:8)); therefore the need to keep our heart clean so that what flows out of it is not evil but good (cf. Mt. 15: 10-20 ‘What Defiles a Person’).
At the recent Ram Leela festival a simple labourer quipped to me that the spectacle of Ravan being sent up in flames is not so important as the need to remove the ‘evil’ from our hearts. So also, way back on a visit to Kashmir, a taxi driver had given me a beautiful explanation of a true Haj pilgrimage – not travelling to Mecca but having goodness in one’s heart and living a life pleasing to Allah.
The answer to the question, ‘where is my heart and where is my treasure?’ will be the barometer of my sincerity before God.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi