The Paston Treasure,
Painted by anonymous Dutch painter,
Oil on canvas,
Painted circa 1670
© Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich, UK. Photo courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service

The Paston Treasure,
Painted by anonymous Dutch painter,
Oil on canvas,
Painted circa 1670
© Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich, UK. Photo courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service

Gospel of 21 June 2019

Store up treasures in heaven

Matthew 6: 19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!’

Reflection on the painting on Panel

Jesus warns us today not to store up treasures for ourselves on earth. This of course is particularly poignant for all the art collectors around, and I often get asked the question if collecting isn’t actually bad for you, as it is collecting worldly goods? This doesn’t necessarily mean that people collect expensive things, but within us we do have a drive to collect items. Think of a young boy collecting football cards, Star Wars memorabilia, or girls collecting dresses for their dolls etc… So seen today’s reading, would collecting be something bad then? Well, it all depends on the motivation behind it and how it affects your day to day life. If collecting becomes more important than your relationships, or becomes obsessive or you like to brag about what you have collected or if you spend money unwisely, then collecting isn’t good for you. But if collecting takes on a ‘background’ part of your life, and is something that simply gives you joy, and doesn't interfere with your relationships or God's will for your life, then collecting can probably be a good thing. Of course it is more complex than that though. Furthermore, collecting doesn’t necessarily need to cost any money, like collecting family photographs, stones, seashells, etc… bringing the owner joy because of the memories they hold.

That said, Jesus warns us that any earthly things we collect of course can break, fade, get stolen, be destroyed… Hence any treasure on earth is temporary and can’t last forever. He asks AND encourages us instead to store up treasures in heaven where they won’t break, get stolen, or be destroyed. How can we do this?…. by helping others, being kind, loving our neighbour, obeying God, spending time praying etc…

Today we look at a painting that lavishly depicts a private collection of earthly goods. It looks so incredible rich and opulent, showing off a small fraction of the Paston family's collected treasures. It was executed by an unknown Dutch artist who resided at the Paston’s residence. I invite you to look at this video, narrated by Stephen Fry, which reveals a bit more about the painting:

The mean reason for choosing this painting, apart from its relevant content to today’s Gospel reading, is that it was painted by an anonymous hand. Too often artists nowadays get glorified and take centre stage. The cult of the artist can almost supersede the actual works they make. Here we are looking at a magnificently executed work, but the artist didn’t sign the work, nor did he want to be known… quite a beautiful attitude, and in that sense very counter-cultural to our 21st century mentality.

The question ultimately in today’s reading is: where is our heart? If it is in earthy things, then there is an issue. If it is in heaven, then we are more closely aligned to God, and therefore deep in His love.

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