October 16, 2013
Jesus and the Moth
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel contain Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. These chapters contain about 101 verses and are considered a basic summary of Jesus’ teaching for anyone wishing to become his disciple. There is no question that Jesus’ words are simple yet profound. For example: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The beatitudes often put people off because they call a disciple not to strict and unending religious practices, but to personal conversion and value adjustment. Values are what guide us in our daily personal and interpersonal behavior.
In Chapter 6, Verse 19, Jesus gives us a simple but very dramatic statement: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.” I was always struck by the simplest images Jesus sometimes used. For example, in that passage, the word moth caught my attention. Consider this: thieves break into homes and banks and do tremendous damage and harm. Precious paintings are lifted; jewelry and electronics taken.
Jesus was not saying material things have no value. We have items that are dear and precious to us. What Jesus is referring to are the treasures upon which some people base their very being and identity.
On New Year’s Eve, a TV interviewer once went to the street to ask people the simple question: “Who are you?” One man said, “I am a millionaire. I have everything I need. Money is no object.” His very identity was wrapped up in his untold wealth. A beautiful woman said: “I am a celebrity. It’s hard for me to go anywhere without a big crowd of fans showing up and asking for my autograph.” I’m quite sure many would look upon wealth and celebrity status as treasures.
And then I thought of Jesus’ example of the moth. What harm could a moth do? It flies around a light; it weighs practically nothing; its lifespan is short. Then it occurred to me that sometimes the tiniest thing can cause real damage. Isn’t a blot clot almost invisible to the eye? That tiny blood clot could cause instant death. It doesn’t matter how much wealth a person has. He would be helpless against that little clot. Power, wealth, prestige, and popularity, in the reality of life, are helpless against a tiny clot—a little moth—that Jesus was talking about.
Are we not truly blessed to know, deep in our hearts, what is truly important in our lives? Those truths are the basic treasures that will never end and will only help us make the best choices we can in this life.
Dear Ben, Elizabeth, and Debbie: Thank you so much for your kind reactions to my latest E-spiration. Indeed, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a role model for us all. If you want to read more about saints, take a look at our Saint of the Day book, published by Franciscan Media! Friar Jack
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