Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Lamp of the Body

I noticed an interesting thing when I sat down last night to read today’s Lectionary readings. The Lectionary skips over Luke 11:33-36. This morning, I dug through the Lectionary to see if perhaps the passage is used anywhere else. Nope. I could find no instance in which Luke 11:33-36 is the Gospel read at mass (granted, it was only a five-minute search, based on an online version of the Lectionary – I welcome corrections). It’s passages like this, which the typical Catholic is likely never to have seen or heard, that I find among the most fascinating, and this one is fairly cryptic.

No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it (under a bushel basket), but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light. The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.

I read the passage once, and then I read it again. Then I got my wife’s attention, and I said to her, “Hey Amy, what do you make of this?” Then I read it to her. “The lamp is our talents,” she said matter-of-factly. “Okay, but this says the lamp is the eye. What’s all this eye stuff about?” She shrugged, and then asked, “Why are you trying to interpret it? We’re not supposed to do that, are we?” So then I had to go into an aside about the four senses of scripture and how we are indeed supposed to interpret scripture, provided we follow the rules. Both the senses and the rules are covered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (109-119).

What we came up with, using the lamp as talents analogy and the immediate context of Luke 11 as a guide, is that each of us has been endowed by our Creator with certain natural gifts. St. Paul might extend that to include spiritual gifts as well. We can use those gifts for good or ill. If we put our talents or gifts to uses that are at cross-purposes with what God intended when he made us and gave us those gifts, then our eye is bad, and our body is in darkness. If we cooperate with God’s grace, then we will see clearly, and our body will be in light, and our actions will lead others to the light. We have to have a certain clarity of vision in order to properly use our gifts so as to be a light to others. We have to be diligent to remove even the splinters from our eyes, once we’ve removed the planks. Deliberate, conscious hypocrisy simply will not do.

As always, it seems like it should be so much easier than it actually is in practice. As much as we want to be good, our fallen nature makes it difficult. Even when we see clearly, we can’t always subdue our will. It’s like trying to follow directions while driving. Sometimes we know that we have a right turn coming up, but we see the street sign too late to make the turn. In my struggle to conform myself to Christ, I often pray the three-fold prayer: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly. Knowledge of Christ leads to love of Christ, which leads to imitation of Christ, through which others will see Christ in us. Lord, let us be children of light! Banish from us all darkness that clouds our vision, that we may be light to others.

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