The Eye is the Lamp of the Body

Third Sunday of Matthew, Matthew 6: 22-33

One summer a tailor toured Europe. Somehow he arranged for a meeting with the Pope. When he returned to work, his friend eagerly asked, ‘Tell me, what kind of man is the Pope?’ He pondered a moment, then answered, ‘He is a 39 short.’

It is one of the truths of life that we see as we are. The painter sees the world in color, the sculptor in form; the musician perceives the world in sound, and the economist in commodities. Show two people the very same painting and each will notice something different in it.

Jesus begins today’s Gospel Reading, Third Sunday of Matthew 6:22-33, by saying, ‘22 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’

Fr. Anthony Coniaris wrote a brilliant sermon titled ‘We See as We Are’ that appears in his book Gems from the Sunday Gospels, Volume One. In it he states, “The eye is the window of the whole body. Eye here means the soul of a person. And we tend to see and hear things not as they are, but as we are. He who is filled with hate sees only hateful people. If we feel insecure inside, other people seem to threaten us. We are constantly judging others by ourselves. The thief is far more suspicious of others than is the honest man.”

He tells a story of an ancient king who chose a good man and a bad man from among the people. The good man he said, ‘Go out into my kingdom and find an evil man.’ The good man searched and searched, but he could find no evil man. To the bad man the king said, ‘Go out into the kingdom and find a good man.’ The bad man also searched and searched, but he could find no good man. We see as we are.

Fr. Coniaris continues, “We see that which we have prepared ourselves to see. Why was it that only the Magi Wise Men saw the star? Because, they were the only ones looking for the Saviour. Why was it that only Symeon and Anna recognized Jesus as the Saviour of the world when Mary and Joseph brought the child into the crowded Temple on the fortieth day after His birth? Because only they were expectantly looking for Him.”

In the Great Vespers service right before the Entrance and singing of ‘O Joyful Light’, the priest’s prayer reads in part, ‘For unto You, O Lord, Lord, our are eyes and in You have we hoped.’ In the Divine Liturgy right before the Gospel, the priest prays, ‘Shine within our hearts, O Lord, the pure light of Your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our mind and heart to comprehend the message of Your gospel teaching.’ As our physical eyes read the scriptures and gaze upon the sacred icons, our hearts and minds must be constantly looking towards the Lord.

Listen to Jesus’ other teachings about the eyes:

1Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye 4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye 5Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-8)

9And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. (Matthew 18:9)

18So He said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods’ 20And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.’ (Mark 7:18-23)

Fr. Anthony retells the story about the famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher. As he greeted people when they exited the church after the worship service. One person said, ‘Dr. Beecher, you may be interested to know that I counted a dozen grammatical errors in your sermon this morning.’ Another worshipper greeted him saying, ‘Today, I found God.’ Both people had listened to the same sermon. Both had found what they were prepared to find. We see as we are.

He continues by saying that what is inside is all-important. If we do not have God on the inside, we shall never see Him on the outside. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ (Mt.5:8) Pointing at a neighbor’s wash in the back yard, a lady said, ‘Just look at those clothes on the line. They are so grey and streaked.’ A friend replied to her, ‘It looks to me as if the clothes are very clean. It is your windows that are dirty.’

If life looks cloudy, maybe it’s our windows that need cleaning. Jesus is always calling on us to keep the windows of the soul clean through daily self-examination, repentance and confession. If we do not, we shall constantly see others, not as they are but as we are. George Bernard Shaw said, ‘Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world.’ Amen.

Rev. Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews

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