Epistle Reading Romans 5:1-10
Gospel Reading Matthew 6:22-33

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In the Gospel reading this morning, Christ very succinctly gives us the Christian perspective on life: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (everything we need) shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). I hear the question very often: how do we do this? How do we seek first the things of God? How do we not worry constantly about out lives—how to pay the bills, how our children or families are doing, how things are going with our parish—how do we have a knowledge of things that need attention, but not allow them to consume us, and be a constant source of worry? And beyond not worrying, how in the world do we come to the point of Epistle reading: glorying in tribulations and afflictions, trusting every aspect of our entire lives to the oversight of God?

Firstly, we need a clarification—what does it really mean to have no worry and to trust our lives to God in all things? So many things we hear in the Scriptures become stumbling blocks for us because we simply don’t understand what they mean. For instance, we hear forgive, we think forget, and then we struggle to forgive people because we think that means we have to forget their offense—which is not at all what the Father’s teach us. And this same type of misunderstanding happens when we hear “don’t worry about your life…seek first the kingdom of God, and all that you need will be provided for you.” This does not mean that we just shut down our lives and wait for God to provide us what we want! This doesn’t mean we don’t think about what’s going on in our lives. That would be incredibly irresponsible. God gave us brains with reasoning capabilities to be used; and the Scriptures command us to work, or we don’t eat. We are to use the abilities that God has given us to exist in this fallen and sinful world—but we’re to live with the constant memory that everything we have is a gift from God. God is caring for us, even when we’re at work—God allows us to continue to live, (to get up, get ready, get to work) and to have the abilities to do our job. That is the Christian perspective. When we realize that everything we have is a gift from God, why would we worry? Our lives are not our own, the Scriptures teach, as Christians we belong entirely to another. And Christ will provide for our needs as He sees fit (this does not mean our wants and desires as we see fit!). He gives us what we need, and in the words of the services of the Church, God gives us what we need for our salvation.

And now back to our original question—Christ gives us the answer to how we can be able to begin entrusting every aspect of our lives to God in the first two verses of this morning’s reading: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6: 22-23). Christ then goes on to tell us what life looks like when we live in the light, when our eye is good. That’s the first step, the step we all need to take—in order to begin living in the light, to begin entrusting our lives to Christ and not worrying all the time about everything—our eye must be good. “The lamp of the body is the eye,” Christ says, “If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.” This eye Christ is referring to, according to the writings of the Father, is our soul. If our soul is good (healthy), then our whole being will be filled with light. If our soul is bad, then what a terrible darkness we’ll be filled with. How do we entrust our lives to Christ?—our soul must be healthy.

The Fathers of our Church write constantly about the health of our soul, that the first step in the Christian life is to concentrate on healing our soul. As we are purified from our sins and our passions (as our soul becomes more Christ-like), then the light of Christ will illumine our minds and our hearts. The way to do this, in Biblical terms, is simple—“If you love Me,” Christ says, “keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the first step, and the only step that we really should concern ourselves with right now. Keeping the commandments of Christ, all of the commandments of Christ. This heals our soul, so that we can entirely be filled with the light of the presence of God.

St. Niketas Stethatos lists a few of the stages that we go through as we concentrate on this first step of the spiritual life…[And I keep stressing the idea that we’re on the first step because the Fathers teach that most of us are on the first step for most, if not all, of our lives. The first step is purification—to be entirely free from outward sin. The second step is illumination—where the presence of the light of Christ fills us and banish even the thought of sin from our minds. And finally there is deification—perfection in Christ, union with God.] Back to St. Niketas, who says that during the first step (the healing of the eye of our soul) we are: putting off the ‘old man’ and putting on the ‘new man’ with a special emphasis on acquiring Christ-like virtues, we begin to feel a contempt for our sinful passions and desires, we focus on fasting and watchfulness and prayer, we begin to stay away from the places and people and things that tempt us to sin, many people enter into such a deep state of repentance for their past sins that they even begin to weep for their sins. All in all, we’re adjusting our every behavior (of body, mind, and soul), every behavior is being changed to be like Christ. This is what it means to follow the commandments of Christ.

We look at the spiritual life and sometimes we’re tempted to want the “big” things – complete trust in God, undistracted prayer, perfect understanding of the Scriptures, etc. But in reality we struggle and often fail in the little things – to say our daily prayers, we don’t stop ourselves from indulging in a “little” sin here and there, we get angry, or sad, we take our minds off Christ. He who is faithful with the little things will be entrusted with much, the Scriptures say. We learn to trust in our God by simply keeping His commandments. In the smallest things we learn to obey. And we obey the people we trust. As our obedience to God deepens, so too does our faith, and our trust in Him. It’s all connected, and in relationship. As our faith grows, as our obedience grows, our trust also grows – my whole relationship with God grows and deepens with time and continued effort on my part.

As we live our eyes are to be fixed on Christ – both our bodily eyes and the eye of our soul. Living a Christian life (life according to the teachings of Christ) puts us on the way of Christ and heals the eye of our soul, so we’re more clearly able to perceive and know God. And when our eye is good, when our soul has undergone (or is in the process of undergoing) healing, then we’ll find ourselves able to glory in tribulation, to persevere in God, to live without worry, to trust our lives to the providence of God. As Christ ended our Gospel reading, this is our Christian perspective: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6: 33).

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!