The lamp of the body is the eye—Third Sunday of Matthew

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

You can tell a lot about a person in their eyes—we often hear phrases like, “he has kind eyes,” or, “her eyes betrayed her true feelings.”  Eyes communicate in a way beyond our reason: art critics will debate what is in the thought of the subject of a portrait.  What, my dear brothers and sisters, do your eyes communicate?

The Lord takes this idea in today’s Gospel.  He tells us,

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 not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.

The meaning seems clear.  What we put into our bodies through our eyes will be reflected out again: our eyes betray what we look at—yet even more, our eyes show who we are.  And so, if we are good, moral, faithful Christians this will be reflected in our eyes.  But this cannot be the limit to these verses.

The word order is different in Greek, it reads “The lamp of the body is the eye.”  And what is a lamp?  It is something to bring light to all around, without discrimination.  Today’s Gospel comes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel and the Lord has already explained what a lamp is, what a Christian is.  “You are the light of the world,” Christ has already told his disciples—that is, he has told us,—“let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14,16)

But, dear brothers and sisters, note too the subtlety of the language, the Lord did not say “the lamps of the body are the eyes,” but rather, “the lamp of the body is the eye.”  He is not talking here of our physical eyeballs—where some are blind, some have cataracts, some need glasses—but of the spiritual eyes.  For even those who have difficulty seeing may be full of light whereas those with perfect vision may be full of darkness.

And what is this light?  This is the wrong question because it is not “what” but “who.”  The light is Christ (see John 8:12)—and if we let Christ within us he will shine out that we may see with our spiritual eyes all the glorious things the Lord has done for us.

My dear brothers and sisters, let Christ in: and through you he may illumine the world around you that we may all come to a closer knowledge of God.  Amen.