Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019 

Paulo Coelho

Not all of my personal spiritual reading is from the classics of Christian writing. Not even close! A book that I go back to occasionally is Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I suppose that some would consider it to be new age writing. It is an allegorical novel and has been compared to Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

Here is the description from the dust jacket.

“This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest … what turns out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.”

The reason I return to The Alchemist so often is buried in these lines from page 42 of the paperback version (Harper San Francisco): “He realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure, he said to himself.”

Those words are the epiphany he had as the pondered his recent experience of having his money stolen and the fact that he was, oddly enough, getting the new experiences he had always wanted. He realized that the experience of being an adventurer far outweighed the experience of losing his money.

The words stayed with me because my 2003 brain tumour was followed by the realization of how much growth I was experiencing because of a difficult situation. I was able to say, I am not the poor victim of a major health crisis and I have no reason to move to self-pity. I am on a strange adventure in my life and things are, thankfully, not going to follow a script.

I see my personal adventure as a spiritual experience, a sort of pilgrimage. I eventually recognize that adventure when I find myself in the midst of some strange and unexpected set of circumstances.

Coelho is making a point about the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts. Jesus’ agenda isn’t that different. What are you looking for? This is his question in John’s Gospel.

Today’s Gospel from Luke includes the reminder to seek an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Then he suggests that we be dressed for action and have our lamps lit. That readiness is about the journey that he invites his followers to pursue.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Sharon Walters
    Posted at 08:30h, 11 August Reply

    I loved The Alchemist…..nice to be reminded of its message and that of tody’s Gospel.

  • steve catlin
    Posted at 10:06h, 11 August Reply

    Thank you Philip. Feeling blessed by the Spirit through your words today.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:31h, 11 August Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 22:45h, 11 August Reply

    Hi Philip,

    Your piece speaks to my heart. Thank you again for sharing.


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