I am writing this reflection a day after Juneteenth, and that leads me to reflect on the second half of our Gospel reading in a particular way. Jesus says: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
I don’t think Jesus is talking about physical sight. For me, the “eye” in Jesus’ image, is how we look at the world, or other people, or anything. And in thinking about Juneteenth, the “eye” represents for me how we look at the “other;” how we look at those who are different from us.
I am reminded of a quote from Booker T. Washington: “In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.”
If I “see” that your gain is my loss, I am lost in darkness. If we as a society, “see” things in that way, we are lost in darkness, and the “treasure” in our hearts to which Jesus refers in the first part of our Gospel reading is revealed to be having some advantage or power over another.
Jesus calls us to see things differently. He invites us to let Him in and fix our “eyes” to see as He does; to see each other, and indeed all of creation, as beloved by God, and not as objects of domination or exploitation. Jesus came so that we may all gain.
May our eyes be sound, so that the world will be filled with the light of Jesus.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.