The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (6:22-33)
In today’s reading we hear Our Lord Jesus Christ say “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Often this verse is reduced or simplified to refer to sexual sins involving the eyes such as lust, but in fact the Lord is going much further than that. By the eye, He is referring to our desiring faculty. He is referring to the eye as to that which sees and desires. In fact, it can even apply if our physical eyes don’t work. We can desire things within our heart and mind, regardless of whether or not we’ve ever seen them. They have a very real image within our imagination and they can be the motivating factor of our life. For some, the motivating factor is the idea of power. For others it is sex, or food, or prestige or money or comfort or stability. Certainly there are some other motivating factors that we could mention. The Lord tells us that whatever our “eye” is focused on, becomes the focus of our whole life. If our focus in life is wealth, then we quite literally become servants of wealth. We can become servants of anything that takes our attention and captures our heart. The Lord says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
Our Lord Jesus in His mercy and love towards mankind, desires much more for us, than we desire for ourselves. We sometimes desire power, He desires to give us a place as sons and daughters of God. We sometimes desire wealth, He desires to give us the wealth and inheritance of the saints, which is righteousness and holiness. We desire prestige, and He desires to have fellowship with us. We desire security and He desires to give us stability that cannot be shaken. We desire comfort, yet He desires to give us joy and peace. We desire love, but He desires to give us unending, inextinguishable love. Whatever we think we desire….when we try to find it outside of Him, we actually don’t find it, we find the opposite. That is an absolute law of the spiritual life.
At this point some of us might be thinking “the Lord is insensitive to my needs! He doesn’t know how I worry and work so hard just to make a living.” Yet in our reading the Lord Jesus makes it clear that he knows, and He knows far better than us! He tells us not to be anxious about our life. Could anything be more freeing? This week we celebrated the independence of this nation, yet according to the teachings of Christ, most of us are slaves and not free. We are slaves to anxiety. We are slaves to fear. We are slaves to the things of this life, what we wear, what we eat, what we save. And our Lord acknowledges that we need these things, but He differs on how we should approach them. We approach them by fixating on them, focusing on them and setting our minds and heart on them. Yet the way of the Lord is better.
Our Lord Jesus tells us that He is the way! He is the way to everything that we think we desire and instead of chasing after illusions and shadows, we will find that He give us much more than we ever thought was possible, such is His generosity and His mercy towards us. So instead of seeking after wealth and security and food and clothing what is it that we should seek? The Lord says “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” What does this mean? St. Augustine writes “When he said that the one is to be sought first, Jesus clearly intimates that the other is to be sought later—not that it is to be sought at a later time but that it is to be sought as a thing of secondary importance. He showed that the one is to be sought as our good, that the other is to be sought as something needful for us, but that the needful is to be sought for the sake of the good.”
But what is it that we should seek first? The kingdom of God. And how should we seek it? We seek it by making God, His commandments, and His ways, the focus of our whole life. When we rise in the morning, the Lord should be the first thought and first objective. The psalmist writes “early will I seek Thee, My soul thirsts after thee, my flesh longs for thee in a dry and waterless land.” You see, as we focus our gaze on Christ, we begin to seek Him more. As we seek Him more, we find ourselves thirsty and hungry for His presence in our lives. We find ourselves asking “how does this activity bring me closer to you O Lord?” “How can I better serve you and know you my God?”
So we start with this as our mind-frame and our focus from the start of the day. That is why we encourage you to start every day with morning prayers. A Christian who doesn’t start His day with prayers doesn’t have his life properly oriented and doesn’t gain the energy and blessing needed to pass the day in a way that is pleasing to God. But one who begins with God, invites God into every aspect of His life without fear. He invites Him with hopeful expectation and joy.
St. Porphyrios once said “Those who desire and crave to belong to Christ and who abandon themselves to the will of God become worthy. It’s a great thing, all-important, to have no will. The slave has no will of his own. And it is possible for us to have no will of our own in a very simple manner: through love for Christ and the keeping of His commandments.”
And the Lord’s promise will not go unfulfilled. He will indeed give usa treasure of spiritual food, clothing, stability and riches together with all of the saints who have been well-pleasing to Him throughout all generations. AMEN.