Paul’s experience of Paradise must have really been something. We could be jealous of him, but we could also recognize that what he saw was probably essential in terms of the motivation he needed to continue through the trials he faced. In some ways, Paul’s life makes more sense when we consider how much extraordinary grace and supernatural help he received. By boasting of his weakness, he himself bears witness to the fact that this is all God’s doing and the only thing he can reliably contribute is his willingness, his endurance, and his suffering. He can boast because he has discovered that the action of the Holy Spirit is what has made him who he is. We can imitate St. Paul by learning how to lean in to our weakness with compunction. We would rather have some kind of reliable stability based on our own control than the support and help of the Holy Spirit. Yet, when we turn more frequently and more fervently to the help of the Spirit, we grow in the most important relationship we have in life.
Jesus gives us two important words to help guide our discernment in today’s Gospel. The first one is about treasure. We know that treasure is something of great value, and something that needs to be protected or hidden because it could be taken away. Usually when we think about being poor, or even poor in spirit (as we are taught by the beatitudes) we think about how we are not supposed to accumulate wealth. In many cases, that is the right spiritual attitude. The more we latch on material or even spiritual things of this life and this world, the more we are chained to a horizontal and earthly existence. The more stuff we have, the more money we have, the more anxiety we have because we have to protect it or use it or store it somewhere and watch over it. The more people we are connected to, the more parties we have to attend, the more social obligations we have to fulfill, the more drama we have to endure, the less time and space we have for God. The smarter we are, the more we think about life and responsibility, and the more we try to control things directly or indirectly, the less room we give to the Holy Spirit to act. So, while on the one hand, Jesus wants us to be poor and detached, on the other hand he wants us to attach ourselves and accumulate treasure in heaven. What is heavenly treasure? It is God Himself and it is Charity. Go on uniting yourself to God, the Holy Trinity, by your daily prayer and accumulate the experience of God’s love and of heaven: let that be your treasure. Go on serving your brothers and sisters and loving your enemies, in that way divine Charity accumulates in your heart. The Charity that you die with in this life is the only accumulation that will remain with you in heaven.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us something important about prayer. There are different ways to pray: you can pray out loud with words – vocal prayer – you can pray quietly in your heart but still with words: prayers of petition, asking God for help, for grace, etc. There is another kind of prayer that every Christian is invited to discover: prayer in the Spirit. Some people call it mental prayer, others call it contemplative prayer, but it is more deeply understood as the core of the Christian life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” What is the inner room Jesus is talking about? What does He mean when He says, “close the door?” How do you pray to the Father? What does He mean by, “in secret?”