Lamp of the Body, Lamp of the Mind

In St Matthew’s gospel we read this statement from Jesus: “The eye is the lamp of the body (Mt 6: 22).”  This is not a scientific statement — it will not be found in any  textbook of anatomy or physiology.  Our Lord continues his statement,  “If your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.”  This is what is to be understood:  vision directs the actions of the body to proper movement, work, and activity.  In contrast, if one is blind, then the actions of the body are conducted in darkness.  With blindness proper action, work, and activity are altered.  In the ancient world’s realities, blindness generally led to impoverishment and want.

Light and Life

The Fathers of the Church made this connection:  As the eye is to the body, so the mind is to the soul.  Thus, if the mind is filled with the light of Christ there will be proper action, work, and activities that are pleasing to God.  If the mind is darkened by sin and worldly understanding one will be governed by passion and such works will be displeasing to God.

Hence, the battle is in the mind.  The Prayer of the Hours contains in its central portion this petition:  “…sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set aright our minds, cleanse our thoughts…”  With a healthy eye there is a healthy body.  With a holy mind there is a healthy and holy soul.

How will the purified, properly oriented mind lead to proper perceptions and actions in our lives regarding the needs of the body and money?  In the verses that follow Mt 6:22 our Lord speaks of wealth, and the need for food and clothing.  Christ declares this about the mind obsessed with wealth:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth (Mt 6: 24).

One may have wealth and serve God first if one has a healthy mind.  Such a person can follow this directive of Christ:  “Store up treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there also is your heart!”  (Mt 6: 20 — 21).  In contrast, if one clamors for wealth and relentlessly seeks it without any thought for God, one will have gained the whole world, yet will have lost one’s soul.

In following verses (Mt 6: 25 — 34) our Lord speaks of everyday needs and the anxieties that do arise from these cares,

Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, with what you will clothe yourself.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than these?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his statue?  (Mt 6: 25 — 27)

Jesus continues this teaching:

Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat? or, “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For after all these things the nations seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given to you (Mt 6: 31 — 33, emphasis added).

In all honesty, though, such anxieties and worries can afflict the faithful.  Such matters can weigh heavily on the mind.  We find ourselves in the grip of runaway inflation caused by foolish and terrible monetary policies.  This, in turn, has brought upon many very hard choices and understandable concern.  Day to day choices are now made that may not have been necessary in recent years.  These choices must be made not only for self-interest, but also for one’s neighbor.  Many consumptive habits are to be altered, decreased, and even eliminated in some cases.  Though such changes of habits have come about by ill conceived governmental policies and dictates, such lifestyle alterations may be of benefit to the soul.

However, I bristle at the mandated demands for change made by secular powers.  It is my opinion that they are not for the good of humanity or the environment, but are mandates placed upon us for their own further empowerment and enrichment.  I recall the cynical definition of the Golden Rule:  “Those with the gold make the rules.” The wealthy, powerful elite make the rules only to strengthen their “hold on the gold.”

In the past two years I find it ironic that the power elite are calling on our sacrifices to protect — primarily — the environment.  I am suspicious.  If they are not “doing for the children” so much anymore, they are doing in “for the environment.”  I am for the environment!  I am for its protection and healing.  I am for the welfare and well being of every human and every creature.  We are to bless God’s creation, cultivate, and nurture it.  We are never to exploit any creature or any part of the creation.  But, I am suspicious of the true motives of the power elite of the West.  A British commentator recently summed up their mindset quite clearly:  “It’s not that they love the environment so much as it is that they hate humanity.”  In all of this that is set before us in these days, we are not to think that such manipulation is new.  St. James gives us his wise and holy perspective from the first century:

…Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court?  Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable Name by which you are called?  (James 2: 6b — 7)

Yet, we do not need to vilify them.  We are to have eyes wide open.  We are to be perceptive — very perceptive and alert.  Ultimately, it is not the power elite that are our enemies.  St. Paul clarifies,

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world ruler of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6: 12 — 13).

Jesus Christ Conquers

The battle is in the mind.  We are to see with eyes of wisdom, peace, and holiness.  With a healthy eye and a holy mind, we must come together to meet the common needs of each other when they arrive.  Every sacrifice we may be forced to make — we are to make to the glory of God — not to appease those who hold oppressive power.  In all these matters, though meant to work against us, we can redeem them in and by Christ to the good of all and all things.  Every abasement that we may have to endure is to be seen for our salvation that Christ may be more fully formed in us.  By the utilization of truth, righteousness, the Gospel, peace, faith, salvation, prayer, and perseverance we will stand in Christ with and for one another by a wise, peaceful, and holy vision (see Ephesians 6: 14 — 18).  And being thus armored, when necessary, faithfully, and peacefully, resist our oppressors who do the bidding of dark powers.

Once more, as we find in the Prayer of the Hours, we are to ask God to “set aright our minds and cleanse our thoughts.”  Thus, we will have a healthy mind and a sound spirit to face every challenge that will come our way to the glory of God!

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus