St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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Weekly Message 03-01-09: Cheesefare Sunday

Cheesefare Sunday

Make it your practice instead to store up heavenly treasure ... Matthew 6: 20.

During the sacred season which we will initiate among ourselves during the Forgiveness Vespers after the Covered Dish dinner today, we are called upon to concentrate on accumulating treasure which will serve us well in paradise. Treasures are those values and actual things which are so important to us because of what they represent and denote. For instance, not long ago, we read about the Wise Men bringing their treasure to offer and present to our Saviour in the manger.

So our Lord is telling us today to embrace all the virtues, practice them heartfully so their wealth is shared with poorer members of the Body of Christ. We are taught that he who has pity on the needy, when he provides some provision, lends thereby to the Lord who will repay in his time. "He who has compassion on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his good deed" Proverbs 19: 17. It means for believers that heavenly or spiritual values, such as the light of God's countenance, the grace of the Holy Spirit and those things which accompany salvation are considered to be of greater value than any or all worldly things. It is spiritual treasure our Lord speaks of and insists our heart be set on it.

We recall from the Old Testament story of Joseph that his steward acquainted his brothers when they found their money returned in their sacks of grain, that our heavenly Father had given them treasure in those sacks; by his power and providence, secretly putting it there (Genesis 43: 23).

Treasure is also used to express anything whatsoever in great abundance and value "...namely Christ in whom every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden" Colossians 2: 3. Because we belong to Christ, we see and recognize the treasure He offers us in paradise. We make it the most important priority in our lives to seek after it. In the parable of the fine pearl, our Lord tells us the merchant, "When he found one really valuable pearl, went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it" Matthew 13: 46. Faith response to God's first shown love is the most important priority for man created in God's image. Since man is aware what God has promised to him for fidelity in baptismal promise, he should make the effort to seriously and sincerely seek after the treasure God offers. We know the treasure our God speak of is reigning with him for all eternity in heaven. There is nothing we encounter on this earth that is more valuable or more important than the salvation of our soul. Every effort, all activity, conscious and subconscious must be directed towards working along with the grace of the Holy Spirit in achieving the salvation of our soul.

That is what we seek after, that is what we strive for, that is our objective and goal. During this holy season, God's kindness is offered us as invitation to repent. Otherwise the treasure man is storing up in eternity is for the damnation and loss of his own soul. St. Paul reminds us, "In spite of this, your hard and impenitent heart is storing up retribution for that day of wrath when the just judgment of God will be revealed, when he will repay every man for what he has done, eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor and immortality by patiently doing right; wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. Yes, affliction and anguish will come upon every man who has done evil... But there will be glory, honor and peace for every one who has done good; because with God there is no favoritism" Romans 7:5-11.

Our Lord teaches us "A good man produces good from his store of goodness; an evil man produces evil from his evil store. I assure you, on judgment day people will be held accountable for every unguarded word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned" Matthew 12: 35 - 37. In the life of the Body of Christ, we have this treasure in earthen vessels. The good treasure of the heart is a holy frame of mind in the heart and soul, together with a plenteous stock of holy thinking, holy language that expresses the inner holiness of man.

What Christ id teaching us today is nothing new. It was but a repetition of what He originally told the children of Israel at the time of the exodus from Egyptian bondage, "Therefore if you listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all the people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" Exodus 19: 5, 6. What He is saying in grandiose and poetic language is that we who are faithful to him are destined to be his treasure.

So when Moses explained all this to the people, when he set before them all the Lord ordered him to tell them as they began their forty year journey in the desert, "...the people all answered together, `Everything the Lord has said, we will do"' Exodus 19: 8.

Let us here and now repeat the promise of faith like the Old Testament redeemed people as we are about to begin our forty day fast. Let us live up to our baptismal urgency: "Everything the Lord has said, we will do!" Then we too will be highly prized, loved and carefully kept by God as man's treasures are also respected and prized.

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