Alexander, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no use.
He now longed to reach home to see his mother’s face and bid her adieu. But, he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his distant homeland. So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.” With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.
“My first desire is that”, said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury”. The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin”.
The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. But no one dared bring the question to their lips. Alexander’s favorite general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?” At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: “I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt.
I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that No doctor on this earth can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.
The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life with the greed for power, earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.
And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish my people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world”. With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last.
The man who wanted to conquer the whole world realized the smallness of earthly realities only in his death bed. Death revealed to him the true treasure.
What is the treasure?
Treasure is not something like a 100 rupees note we find on the road, it is a huge quantity of money, gold, silver or any other precious stones buried under the earth. People did not have banks or ATM cards those days and so they followed this method to preserve their properties. Due the wars and sudden death of the person, several treasures were left buried. If a person finds a treasure, it means he has found lifetime means for his living and therefore he tries to buy the land at any cost. Too much of interest also might arouse suspicion in the mind of the owner and so it has to be done skillfully. Treasure is not something one earns by hard work but inherits it by luck.
What are our treasures?
All of us are looking for treasures in our lives. For some of us it is the relationship that we establish, for some it is a person whom they love most, for some it is their family, for some it is money, power, wealth so on and so forth. People living in cities like Bangalore to own a house is equal to the finding of treasure. Today every square foot of land itself is a treasure leave alone the treasure buried beneath it. There is nothing wrong in it but should we not search for the treasure which is eternal?
There are several examples of people who hunted for earthly treasures but finally realized that the real treasure is Jesus Christ. St Paul thought Jewish tradition was his treasure, St. Augustine thought worldly life was the real treasure, why go so far, we might know several people who were drunkards and drug addicts but have become people completely transformed after a retreat. The reason was simple. They found out the real treasure.
We are all so lucky you know, because we are born as Catholics. The very fact that you and I are Catholics we are given access to the greatest treasure called Jesus Christ. We need not go in search of this treasure. Our faith, Our God, Sacraments, Scripture, Catholic tradition and Christian community all these form part of the treasure. It is not hidden from us. It is given freely to us. But are we aware of it?
We should value the treasure?
You give an option to a child and ask him/her to choose between 5 rupee coin and a 2 rupee coin, most of them will choose the latter because, it is bigger than the 5 rupee coin. If you tie a puppy using a gold chain, is it going to be aware of its worth? If we do not know the value of treasure, having treasure with us is useless. We need to be educated about the value of a treasure. Though we may have the greatest treasure in the person of Jesus Christ who nourishes us with his word and bread, we may not realize the worth of it. You might own the best of gadgets but without knowing to operate it, it is useless. What is the use of owning a Ferrari without knowing to drive it. Several times, we have the Bible with us, we attend mass, listen to sermons, participate in liturgy but we seldom realize the worth of it.
Money, wealth, pleasure, possession may give us security but the fact that our life is short and one day we need to leave behind all these, tells us how secure we are really. Whether you own a multi storey building or live on a platform, at the deathbed all become equal. We know all these and we are well aware of this situation, but still we go behind these temporary treasures.
We should not stop at acquiring the treasure but need to make full use of it. We need to begin our deeper search within our faith. There are so many things left unexplored in our faith. We need to begin our inward journey and allow Jesus to become part of us. Christianity is not a religion which promotes only personal sanctity, it is also communitarian. We have the responsibility to share this treasure with others.
A woman came out of her house and saw 3 old men with long white beards sitting in her front yard. She did not recognize them. She said “I don’t think I know you, but you must be hungry. Please come in and have something to eat.” “Is the man of the house home?”, they asked. “No”, she said. “He’s out.”
“Then we cannot come in”, they replied. In the evening when her husband came home, she told him what had happened.
“Go tell them I am home and invite them in!” The woman went out and invited the men in. “We do not go into a House together,” they replied. “Why is that?” she wanted to know. One of the old men explained: “His name is Wealth,” he said pointing to one of his friends, and said pointing to another one, “He is Success, and I am Love.” Then he added, “Now go in and discuss with your husband which one of you want in your home.” The woman went in and told her husband what was said.
Her husband was overjoyed. “How nice!!”, he said. “Since that is the case, let us invite Wealth. Let him come and fill our home with wealth!”
His wife disagreed. “My dear, why don’t we invite Success?” Their daughter-in-law was listening from the other corner of the house. She jumped in with her own suggestion: “Would it not be better to invite Love? Our home will then be filled with love!”
“Let us heed our daughter-in-law’s advice,” said the husband to his wife. “Go out and invite Love to be our guest.” The woman went out and asked the 3 old men, “Which one of you is Love? Please come in and be our guest.” Love got up and started walking toward the house. The other 2 also got up and followed him. Surprised, the lady asked Wealth and Success: “I only invited Love, Why are you coming in?”
The old men replied together: “If you had invited Wealth or Success, the other two of us would’ve stayed out, but since you invited Love, wherever He goes, we go with him. Wherever there is Love, there is also Wealth and Success!”
Yes, living a life filled with love is a true sign that we have inherited the true possession. Christ is love and love is what makes us Christians and therefore we are called to love God who is the true treasure and thus reach to our needy and marginalized neighbours.