There is a show on the History Channel called American Pickers that is quite fun. In it, two men go around the country searching for antiques among the various collections of trash and other accumulated rubbish. Often, the two of them go into what appears to be vast amounts of disarray and garbage, and they discover antique pieces which are incredibly valuable. Knowing the difference between trash and treasure is a skill that these two men have carefully cultivated. It is the same with our spiritual lives.
In our lives, we often have difficulty in discovering the treasures. We tend to see the effects of sin in our hearts, and instead of learning the art of picking, we tend to want to get rid of everything. This is understandable. Often the disorders caused by sin run deep, and when all is said and done, the purification that Jesus wants to bring into our lives requires patience and effort.
In this Sunday’s readings, we learn how Jesus is able to bring his light into the darkness; he is able to help us discern the hidden treasures. He helps us to see that our sufferings and our trials are not worthless experiences which are to be discarded, but rather the real gold of the spiritual life.
This dynamic of the spiritual life can be seen in Matthew 4:14-16. In these passages, the Sacred Author is teaching us that the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel context, the Sacred Author intends to show that the despised land of the gentiles would be used for the glory of God.In other words, the Jews viewed these lands as garbage, and God will use these lands to reveal his hidden treasure. It is even more incredible because the word “dawned” indicates that it is in the land of the gentiles where the light would first shine.In other words, not only is God going to show his glory in the garbage pile, it is going to be the first place where this will take place.
There is a similar dynamic in our lives. God first reveals his glory in the midst of the confusion and disorder of sin. He shows us his mercy and infinite compassion in order that we might learn not to rely on ourselves but on him.
We have all witnessed this power in the lives of other people. Perhaps in our families we have witnessed conversions in which people finally understand the deeper things of life. If not in our families, perhaps in our parishes, we know people whose lives once resembled a junk yard, but through the Gospel they discovered gold. We know these examples when they are incredible. Now we have to recognize how that same dynamic can help us to go deeper in our experience of Divine love. In this way, it is not just about the big problems, the disorders of sex, drugs, and other serious ailments, but also the anxieties, disappointments, irrational worries that often plague us. It is about everything which is keeping us from the deep peace of Jesus Christ.
We need to bring all this heap of stuff to Jesus. We have to acknowledge the garbage piles in our life. We have to bring everything to Jesus, and then through the Holy Spirit, let him reveal his glory. This is the art of prayer, letting the Spirit bring into light the hidden things of the human heart. In this way our lives will be ruled less and less by the darkness and more by the divine light.