I never will forget the first time I went to the optometrist and he had to dilate my eyes for a procedure. The light in his office hurt my eyes because my eyes were letting in too much light.
Amazing. Too much light hurts.
But that’s the nature of light. It doesn’t judge whether you are able to see or handle what it is. It simply shines and reveals what truly is. Light has a way of telling us the truth not merely about our surroundings but ourselves as well. And, trust me, sometimes light hurts.
It’s the same with the Light of Christ. It’s naive of us to believe that this spiritual journey of ours is going to somehow be pain free or “comfortably” challenging. There are going to be times in our spiritual lives when the truth, the Light, of the faith causes us real pain, real confrontation, and real discomfort. The challenge in that time is to see beyond the momentary discomfort of the Light and realize the greatest “antiseptic” in our spiritual lives is that very uncomfortable Light!
Let me go even further. If you haven’t confronted a personally uncomfortable confrontation with the searching Light of the faith in your spiritual journey, then you may not be taking your faith nearly as seriously as you should.
Let’s face it, the whole purpose of our faith is to grow us up into full maturity in Christ, and just like the growing pains of your youth, as your bones stretched and your muscles developed, so the “growing pains” of the spiritual life are always for our benefit. But, honestly, sometimes that isn’t very comfortable.
But that’s OK. The times of discomfort should actually be comforting to us. It means we have left that comfort zone of quiet mediocrity, which always leads to stagnation in our lives, and we are moving purposefully toward spiritual health and maturity. The times when the Light seems too bright means the grace of God is stretching us to become more than we are now. Pretty exciting, I know!
In today’s Gospel Lesson, our Lord confronts a very religious man with these uncomfortable truths and He surprised this religious man with His straightforward and direct instruction to him. Let me set the scene for you. The Lord is invited to this religious man’s home for a meal, and during the dinner conversation, The Lord talks about the importance of a healthy spiritual sight that leads to a healthy spiritual life. Since this man is very religious, you’d think he’d welcome such candid spiritual talk, but the man gets distracted by some minor ritual about hand washing. A wise person would pay close attention to how Jesus reacts to this.
Here’s the passage: “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.” Luke 11:34-41
Talk about missing the point! But don’t be too hard on this Pharisee. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of the same shallow sin! Confusing a mere external display for real faith. The Lord clearly sets us up here for real spiritual progress in our lives. He tells us the state of our spiritual lives is determined by our ability to “see” with healthy eyes, the eyes of our soul. If those spiritual insights are weak or ill then our inner lives will be hindered by darkness. Being in the dark only increases the chance we will stumble. But focusing on a clean and healthy spiritual sight means our physical lives will be better as well.
Today, how is your spiritual eyesight? What are you going to do today to increase the amount of Light shining on your spiritual journey? May I suggest three actions you can do right now to help make your spiritual eyesight healthy? First, make sure you are observing (a word I am using very much on purpose!) a daily prayer rule. Second, don’t try this spiritual journey by yourself. Seek out a spiritual “father” to help you see the paces where you may be hiding from yourself. And finally, take inventory on what you allow your mind to think about, what you allow your physical eyes to see, and what you allow to enter your ears. Consume spiritually healthy things, especially reading the lives of the saints. One great place to start is to get to know well the saint you are named after. Do you know the troparia (the hymn dedicated to your saint) of your saint? It’s easy to find just by asking your priest. When you find it, memorize it and make it a part of your prayer rule.
Today, you are called to value your spiritual eyesight as much as you value (more than you value) your physical eyesight. While the process of coming to see clearly may be hard at times, nothing will be more valuable to your life than allowing the Light of Christ to help you see clearly all the areas of our spiritual life you need to see to really grow in your faith today. Seeing clearly is so very wonderful, don’t you think?