Seeing With The Eyes Of A Compassionate Heart Matthew 6:22-23
August 15, 2021
Well, here’s what happen to me last Sunday. I was in the middle of cutting up some fresh jalapeños for my pizza, when I received a call from a friend. There was an emergency in his family, and I had to go to the hospital immediately. In my haste, I forgot to wash my hands. And when I got in the car, I accidentally rubbed jalapeño oil in my eyes. Not only did the burn nearly blind me, but it caused my eyes to water for the rest of the drive.
Between my astigmatisms and getting older I’m used to struggling to see things the way they ought to be seen. Which brings me to what I want to talk about today, seeing life differently – not with our eyes per se, but with our heart.
Staying with the Sermon on the Mount, I chose today’s passage because it seemed to be a perfect transition from last week when Jesus told us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Today’s reading might sound like a recap in a way because Jesus speaks of light again.
Before I read today’s scripture, I think a little context is to help us understand where Jesus is coming from. In the previous verses, he tells his disciples not to store their treasures on earth where bad things can happen to them, but to store them instead in heaven. Jesus is saying, keep your focus on God – because where you put your treasure is where your heart will be.
Then we get this.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! ~ Matthew 6:22-23 ~
Once again, Jesus uses light and darkness as metaphors to speak to the spiritual health of a person. And this “spiritual vision” is what keeps our souls in right relationships with God and others. For example, when your focus is on the wealth and ways of the world, and not on what God is offering, then it’s like you’re choosing to shut out God’s light and all life that it brings.
You might remember from last week that I said, unless you’re a mushroom or mold, light is essential to life. Not only does it help us grow, but it helps us see, and to navigate the darkness be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. Jesus said, “If your eye is good your whole body will be full of light.”
Somewhere around the age of 3 or 4, my nephew Lucas received his first set of glasses. This was big news, as it is with anyone who wears glasses. For the first time in his life, Lucas could see details, like individual leaves on trees and blades of grass, instead of just blurry blocks of color. Those glasses changed the way he saw things, including his worldview. He became more curious, and more aware of everything around him.
Jesus is calling us to see the world with a new set of lenses, ones that help us see things we so often miss. When we gaze upon God’s light and love everything changes. We too begin to see all the little details that God has in store for us.
There’s a great viral video of a grandfather receiving a pair of sunglasses as a birthday gift. Judging the unimpressed reaction on his face, you’d think they were a pair of Ray-Ban knock offs. But his grandkids encourage him to put them on, and when he does his entire demeanor changes. He gasps. Looking all around in utter disbelief, he’s laughing and crying at the same time – speechless because he can’t believe what he sees. Those were no ordinary glasses. But ones designed to help colorblind people see the world in all its vibrant glory.
It’s amazing how one gift could change a person’s perspective on life forever. So too is the gift of Christ Jesus who said, “if your eye is good your whole body will be full of light.” But sometimes even people with perfect vision have trouble seeing the light of Christ as the gift that it is.
Most of us see people for what they appear to be, and we judge them accordingly. We see them as ordinary sunglasses and not the special creation they are. But Jesus sees us for who we are – beloved children made in God’s image. When Jesus sees a person in need, he feels their pain and moves to help them. That’s because Jesus sees the world brightly with the eyes of a compassionate heart.
Luke tells a story about Jesus passing by a funeral procession (Luke 7:12-15). The people are carrying the body of a widows only son. Luke writes, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.” Jesus knew that this woman’s life depended on her son. He felt her pain and helped. He touched the bier they were carrying him on, and immediately the dead man was brought back to life and returned to his mother.
When Jesus saw two blind men crying out for help on the side of the road. And the woman begging for her daughter’s life, and the leper cast out from his community, and the demoniac left to die alone. Not to mention the crowds who constantly flocked to him to be healed. Jesus doesn’t avoid their gaze, but gazes upon them with the eyes of a compassionate heart.
What about us? How do we see? Or better yet, who do we see?
It’s not hard to imagine that if you were to see a crying child, you’d rush to help ease her pain. But what do we do when we see a man with mental illness begging on the side of road? Or a frightened immigrant too scared to ask for help? How do you see a person who wears a MAGA hat, or baggy, low hanging pants? “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
In his latest book The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr makes this powerful point: What Jesus really wanted, was for us to “see the world with his eyes.” When we see the world with the same love and compassion as Jesus, our own world grows richer, deeper, and more loving. So, we must always keep our gaze on the One who is in us, and in everything around us, because according to Rohr, everything we see is the outpouring of God for God is the light inside of everything. How we see, and who we see, is relative to how we will shine.
This productive life that Jesus calls us into, begins by changing the way we see things. It begins with seeing life the way he does, looking through his eyes by turning away from the darkness and stepping into the light that is within us all.
Jesus is the visible presence of God’s love incarnate. He sees faces and lives, situations and struggles and hurts. And is moved with compassion to love on them. Having been made in God’s image, we too are vessels by which God’s love is seen and felt in the world. Thus, the Apostle Paul calls us to be imitators of Christ – to see with the eyes of a compassionate heart – radiating God’s love.
Think about it like this. Jesus looks out at a crowd of a thousand people and sees: Proud people, broken people, gay people, self-righteous church people, people who are addicts, workaholics, adulterers, tax-evaders, embezzlers, hypocrites, liars, thieves, people who are broken and hungry for more that the world offers, people like you and me.
And when he sees us what does he do? He loves us as God loves him. He shows compassion not judgement. He teaches – rather than condemns. He sees past our sin to our condition and moves to help. This is our calling and what it means to follow Jesus. When you set your eye on him, you can’t help but see the divine light in all things and react accordingly.
Your eye is a lamp that illuminates God’s love in you. Remember it was Jesus who said, “Let your light shine so that others can see your good works and give God glory.” (Mt. 5:16) By shining upon others, in all the ways you act in love, you show them how to flip the switch and turn on God’s light within themselves.
But here’s the thing, if we want the light of Christ to shine through us, we need to turn our gaze away from the darkness of the world and put it upon him. Jesus helps us to clearly see the way of God’s love and righteousness. He is the light within us all that helps us see ourselves and others as we really are.
But to see through Jesus’ eyes we must first see him for who he is: The incarnate and visible presence of God’s light and love that exposes the darkness and redeems the good. When we can see this, we are able to break out of our narrow, self-centered way of seeing others and get involved with the people around us. We notice them, acknowledge them, see them not as sinful creatures to avoid, but as God’s children, holy and beloved.
Take the story of a notorious sinful woman who interrupted a dinner party to anoint Jesus with oil (Luke 7:36-50). When Simon the Pharisee quickly passed judgment on the situation, Jesus asked him, “Do you see this woman?” then he gave a list of reasons why she was more spiritually grounded than Simon! Simon had all the religious rules down, but this woman saw Jesus for who he was, and poured out her love upon him. (Roper)
When we see the world through Jesus’ eyes, we can see a person for who they are and not judge them by what we think, or what they wear, or who they love, or how they vote, or where they’ve been, or what they’ve done. Like Mother Theresa loved to say, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus, I must tend to him.”
As you go out into the world, I’d encourage you to look closely at the people in your community, your neighbors and co-workers and strangers alike. When you see them, hear our Lord asking, “Do you see that person the way I do? Do you realize that God made them too?”
Jesus gives us the eyes of a compassionate heart so that we could not only see ourselves as he sees us, but to see others like he does, as brothers and sisters, not strangers and enemies.
Jesus gives us the eyes of a compassionate heart so when we see injustice, we will have the desire to put an end to it. His eyes help us to see the world’s dark sin, so our hearts know where to radiate God’s light.
He has given us eyes that see not only a broken person in need of help, but the horrific cross that repairs all damage. There on that cross, Jesus opened his heart for the world to see God’s redeeming love in the flesh. A love that is given to all who want it.
While the cross of Christ shifts our focus and changes our vision, it is the empty tomb of Christ that frees us to give our hearts willingly to everyone we see. And to do so as if we are giving it to Christ himself.
Therefore, let us keep our eyes always upon the One who said, “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
The daily prayer of St. Theresa of Calcutta
Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with, may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words, but by our example; by the catching force – the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.
Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ. (New York: Convergant, 2019).
Roper, Mark. Seeing Through The Eyes of Jesus. sermoncentral.com. 12 12, 2009. (accessed 08 11, 2021).
The Word This Week.com Eigth Sunday After Epipnany 02 26, 2017. (accessed 08 13, 2021).
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has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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