August 13, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
Seems like I long time since I sat down at my desk to reflect on God’s word. Today I am taking it from Luke 11:33-36.
“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.”
This is one of those passages where the Greek has been variously translated, particularly verses 34-36 (in chronological order of publication).
Douay-Rheims Version: “The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. Take heed therefore, that the light which is in thee, be not darkness. If then thy whole body be lightsome, having no part of darkness; the whole shall be lightsome; and as a bright lamp, shall enlighten thee.”
St. Joseph Confraternity Edition: “The lamp of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be sound, thy whole body will be full of light. But if it be evil, they body also will be full of darkness. Take care, therefore, that the light that is in thee is not darkness. If, then, thy whole body is full of light, having no part in darkness, it will all be illumined, as when a bright lamp illumines thee.”
The Jerusalem Bible: “The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is sound, your whole body too is filled with light; but when it is diseased your body too will be all darkness. See to it then that the light inside you is not darkness. If, therefore, your whole body is filled with light, and no trace of darkness, it will be light entirely, as when the lamp shines on you with its rays.”
New Revised Standard Edition: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”
The New Jerusalem Bible: “The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is clear, your whole body, too, is filled with light; but when it is diseased your body, too, will be darkened. See to it then that the light inside you is not darkness. If, therefore, your whole body is filled with light, and not darkened at all, it will be light entirely, as when the lamp shines on you with its rays.”
Sacra Pagina: “The eye is the body’s lamp. When your eye is clear, your whole body is filled with light. But when the eye is bad the whole body is likewise dark. So see to it that you do not turn light into dark. If therefore your whole body is filled with light, with no part of it dark, then it will be completely light, as when the lamp by its shining sheds light on you.”
Why did Luke repeat this saying from chapter 8. It also appears in Matthew and Mark as well as the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. John gives it his own interpretation. So, it’s meaning was obviously important to the gospel writers. None of these translations make this passage more clear to me. What does Jesus want me to understand here? As Barclay writes, “The meaning is not easy to grasp.” However, Jesuit John Donahue in The Gospel in Parable pointed me in the right direction, “‘Light’ is a symbol of good deeds or proper moral disposition.”
Borg in Jesus notes about this saying, “Aphorisms…often function to overturn or subvert conventional wisdom. They are surprising, arresting, and thought-provoking….[T]he very forms of Jesus’s teaching — parables and aphorisms — are invitations to a different way of seeing. Their function is to bring about a radical perceptual shift….Jesus brings people out of darkness into light….He brings enlightenment, a religious metaphor that many people associate primarily with Asian religions. But enlightenment is central to John’s gospel and to early Christians more generally. John announces it in the magnificent and thematic prologue to his gospel: Jesus is ‘the true light, which enlightens everyone,’ who ‘was coming into the world.’ Our condition is blindness, being ‘in the dark,’ unable to find a way. The solution is to regain our sight, to see again, to have our eyes opened, to come into the light, to be enlightened.”
For Sanford in The Kingdom Within, “The key to the ethic of the kingdom of God is…not obedience but consciousness and the development of the quality of courageous self-honesty that makes psychological consciousness possible. Consciousness is usually represented under the symbol of a light, or a lamp, or an eye, something that denotes ‘seeing’; that, psychological knowing….The body here [quoting this passage in Luke] is the inner person and the eye is the organ of spiritual or psychological perception. If our eye, our spiritual insight, is dark, and we are accordingly acting out of ignorance of ourselves, our whole inner life will be dark, for we will in fact be possessed by everything in ourselves of which we are unconscious. But if we are able to act consciously, our whole inner life will be filled with light. This saying of Jesus is sometimes applied to psychosomatic medicine. This is justifiable, for often our body is made to bear the burden of the darkness of our minds. But it extends beyond the range of psychosomatic problems to the moral life in general, for the body here can be taken as the equivalent of the inner person or soul.”
Interestingly, Richard Rohr’s meditation today touches on this very issue of consciousness. He writes, “Letting go of something is to admit it. you have to own it. Letting go is different that turning it against yourself; different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of yourself, which are nonetheless true, are seen for what they are; but you refuse to turn them against yourself or against others. This is not denial or pretend, but actual transformation. The religious word for this letting go is some form of forgiveness. You see the imperfect moment for what it is, and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let any negative storyline or self-serving agenda define your life. This is a very, very different way of living; it implies that you see your mistakes, your dark side, but you do not identify with either your superiority or your inferiority. Both are equally a problem. Forgiveness is of one piece. Those who give it can also receive it. Those who receive it can pass forgiveness on. You are a conduit, and your only job is not to stop the flow….The art of letting go is really the secret of happiness and freedom.”
I think I get it now. Sunday morning at Mass I prayed, “Lord, I lay myself at your feet. I am what I am, good and bad. I am what you created and I know that you love me as I am and what I hope to be: more like you in accepting and loving myself and others.” I prayed in consciousness and in peace. I just let go and laid myself at his feet. When my eye is clear like that, when I am able to take in his love unconditionally without darkening it, my soul is filled with light and happiness and peace. Letting go is radical, at least for me, and brings me out of darkness into the light, into enlightenment.