In today’s Holy Gospel we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in which He exhorts us toward a complete and perfect trust in God, our loving Father. He implores us to not worry about things… what we shall eat or what we shall wear – all of those material concerns that can so completely eclipse our life and preoccupy us with stress and anxiety over things. And what does our worrying about things solve? Absolutely nothing… worrying is entirely wrapped up in our thoughts; it has no positive bearing on the outcome of things.
It demonstrates our false perception of control and our lack of trust in God. Instead of worrying and tying ourselves in knots, we need to pray and we need to trust.
Indeed, the final words of today’s Gospel reading are a distillation and perfect summary of the spiritual life – we must ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added unto us’.
If our eyes are focused toward God, toward the perspective of eternity and of the disposition and health of our soul; then we will not get so thrown off balance when things unexpected or troubling or tragic occur in our life. We read in today’s Gospel: ‘The Lord said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is pure, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”’
What does this mean?… It is addressing this issue of the focus and the disposition of our soul. If we keep our eye on God, if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then our whole experience of things is full of light. We see things in a positive way; we assume the best of others and wish goodness toward all. When troubles come upon us we are not so easily defeated, but we can take these sorrows in stride and trust that the Lord is watching over us and that our difficulties can be endured in a spirit of humility and hope. As we read in the Epistle today: ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’
If our eye is not pure, if our vision is limited only to the triumphs and tragedies of this brief earthly life; then the inevitable ups and downs of this life are going to take us on a roller coaster ride of emotions and worry. In such a state, our vision and our life is not full of light, but of darkness; and we tend to see things negatively, we suspect others and we’re tossed to and fro by our passions – reacting to everything that comes our way.
It is a miserable way of life – but we all do it to one degree or another. This way of life is based on our pride and in trusting ourselves rather than having a perfect trust in God.
Our unwillingness to trust in God stems from our pride and from not really understanding the love of God.
Listen to the words of the Epistle from this morning: ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.’
Do we understand what the Apostle Paul is saying here?… We must never fall into the trap of thinking that our sinfulness is more powerful than the love and mercy of God. God’s love and care for us is so great that, even when we were estranged from Him, He was willing to die for us. How much more then, when we are reconciled to Him through our baptism, through our repentance, through our partaking of His Body and Blood… how much more then may we be assured of His love for us?
God’s love is constant. He is eternal and is not subject to change. He loves you with a perfect love that encompasses His willingness to die for you. You cannot win His love or persuade Him to love you more than He already does and always will. The only thing we can do is accept or obstruct that love, we can seek it or we can hide from it, we can receive it or we can reject it. But the constancy of the outpouring of the grace and love of God is eternal and unchanging. Several fathers have likened it to a radio signal… God’s love is broadcasting clearly at all times, but we are not tuned in to the right channel to receive it. Our lives are filled with static and we do not perceive or receive fully the love of God. Perhaps we ‘tune in’ during the quiet hours of morning prayer or in the beauty of the Divine Services at church… but this does not reflect a change in the broadcast of God… it only reflects the changing and fickle nature of our ability to tune ourselves to the right frequency.
This is both a source of great hope and also a source of great challenge to our understanding and experience of God. Through a life of prayer, of fasting and spiritual discipline, of reading and praying the Scriptures… through a life of service and sacrificial love… through a life lived in the Church – participating in Her Sacraments… through all of these means we do not earn the love of God. We do not bring forth a love that has been withheld because of our sins and selfishness. No… it is through seeking first these things of the kingdom of God that we remove the obstacles and the static blocking us from the ever present love of God.
Let us make every effort to attune ourselves to the right frequency of God’s grace and love. And may God grant us good and clear ‘reception’… that we may seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that the eye of our soul may therefore be pure and full of light.