The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (6:22-33)
We find ourselves in the middle of the epic sermon on the mount. In this text, St. Luke the Evangelist is casting our Lord Jesus Christ as the new Moses who give the new law to the people of God. And in the midst of this Our Lord Jesus Christ shares with us these words of life… “The Lord said, “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.” Often as westerners we read this text a bit too literally and so we reduce this to what our literal eyes are looking at. In fact, the more important meaning is regarding the intentions and desires of the heart. As I have mentioned in the past, when you begin to have your heart set on something you might say, I have my eye on that. Perhaps it is a new car for instance.
Yet, sometimes what we have our eye on is something that is actually sinful. We may have our heart and desires focused on something that is evil. Perhaps it is a desire for fame or power. Perhaps it is a desire to fulfill a perceived unmet need or desire within us. Perhaps it is the desire to embrace a false identity. If we continue on such a path, without changing course and without repentance, this desire will consume us completely. And this is why the Lord continues saying “No one can serve two master; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
If you focus your glance on the things that you desire, you begin to change your behaviors to obtain those things. Modern marketing and advertising know this and they use it literally to inundate your sense, especially your sight, in order to evoke an emotional response of desire. They stir up the passions. Elder Aimilianos, one of the modern holy elders of Mt. Athos said “The passions bind the mind to material things that we think are harmless, since we tell ourselves, God gave them to us and in them selves they are not sinful.”
So if the things that we truly desire are wrong or evil, they wind us down an evil path that ends in complete darkness. As a Christian, the impetus for change in our life should be a focus on Christ and the things of Christ. We call Him Lord and Master don’t we? So how can we have a master and then actually allow other things to guide us in a contrary direction? If we go against our true Master we don’t end up without a master, we end up with a different master. Either way we become slaves and servants. As Bob Dylan writes, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
If we trust our own thoughts, feelings and desires, we are setting ourselves up for failure, destined to choose the wrong master and the wrong path that will eventually mold us into the wrong image. That is a really difficult concept to understand especially in our day and age where feelings have been put up on a pedestal as the single most important aspect of our humanity. Whatever you “feel” you should do! Do whatever makes you “Happy”!
But this sentiment is conspicuously absent from the holy scriptures, the gospels and the new testament not to mention the saints of the Church. It is also completely absent from the teachings of Our Lord and master. Why? Because typically our feelings come from a heart and mind that lacks purity. In lacking purity it rarely reflects the will of God but often reflects our own internal corruptness. We are confused by our passionate desires and they promise us that if we will only follow them and sacrifice everything for them then we will know true peace and fulfillment and we will be happy and find our meaning. In fact, Satan promises us with exactly the opposite of the truth. It is only through the sacrifice of your thoughts and your will to Christ that you can become someone and find meaning and fulfillment because then you enter into truth and light and life which all come from Christ.
So how should we struggle? Elder Aimilianos says, “Whatever it is that you think or believe, whatever it is you think you love, of that your mind has become attached to, you must strike it with a divine passion, with hate, and then your passion will be set aside by divine power, by divine grace, and you will lay the foundation that will enable you eventually to love God.”
This is the start of our repentance. We imagine our heart as a one bedroom apartment with a single bed and there is only room for one honored guest. We will house and provide shelter to the one we love. The other unwanted guest must be hated and removed from our dwelling. If we truly desire God, God’s grace infuses our lives and changes us. Some of the tools the holy elder recommends in order to grow are praying at night, as well as the remembrance of God, he writes “It is essential to remember God, to hold God within memory, for memory fuels desire, and it is by means of desire that God becomes our possession.”
And this same sentiment is reflected in his own words as He said,
“My desire is for Christ; my longing is for Christ. It is for Him that my life is being transformed… my path is one constantly seeking after the Lord.”
May we also constantly seek after Christ our true God until He becomes our obsession, the One who consumes our life. AMEN.