A very rich man was nearing the end of his life and he began to contemplate the life to come. He was very troubled that he would soon lose everything he had worked so hard for. All his wealth would soon belong to others and he would enter Paradise poor. It didn’t seem fair to him so he prayed fervently that he would be allowed to take all that he had amassed with him. One night an angel appeared to him.
“O mortal,” said the Angel, “All men come into this world empty handed and empty handed they must go to the next…”
The man pled, “I have worked so hard for what I have and I have no family to leave it to… Can there be no exception made?”
The angel thought for a second. “This is highly irregular but I will see what I can do…”
Suddenly the Angel disappeared then just as suddenly, he reappeared and said, “A special exception has been made. You may bring with you what you can pack into one suitcase.”
After the Angel had again left, the man went and found his largest suitcase and packed it full with gold bars and laid it by his bed for the day of his death.
Sure enough the fateful day came and the man died. The man grabbed his suitcase just as his soul was leaving his body and took it with him. There at the gates of heaven, the man dragged the impossibly heavy suitcase all through the winding line to meet St. Peter. When it was finally the man’s turn, St. Peter looked at him and them down at his suitcase and said, “you know you can’t bring that in, right?”
The man confidently replied that he had been given assurances by an Angel that he would be allowed the one suitcase. St. Peter excused himself, and went back behind the pearly gates to conference with one of the Angels. When he returned, St. Peter apologized.
“It seems a special exception has been made in your case. I was, however asked to inspect the contents of your suitcase before letting you through.”
The man happily obliged and St. Peter unlatched the suitcase. As he surveyed the contents of the suitcase there was a look of pure confusion on his face. He shouted back to the Angels behind him:
“All this fuss over a suitcase full of pavement?”
What we value and what God values are often two very different things. This old church joke perfectly illustrates how the things we see as so precious and so worth our pursuit here on earth might be mundane and unimpressive on the streets of gold. Jesus admonishes us to store up treasures in heaven. As disciples we are called to reject what the world values and seek after the things that God values. This means denying our own desires and taking up our cross. It would be a terrible thing if we were to come to the end of our life and all we had to show for it was a suitcase full of pavement.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…