Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday in the 11th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Eye Test

Readings: 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14; Psalms 31:20, 21, 24; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Picture: CC Sarah606

In spite of skyrocketing fuel costs and the adverse effects on the environment, many of us – myself included – are still driving. Part of the reason is the freedom that it affords us. We needn’t throw ourselves at the mercy of the varied sites and schedules of public transport. We more easily move from place to place even in inclement weather. We can happily forge through life at our own preferred pace and in our own desired direction. But before one is allowed behind the wheel, one must first get a license, which entails undergoing several tests. In addition to the theory and practical tests – for which people expend much time, effort and money preparing – there is one other that is as short as it is crucial. Even if one is able to pass all the other tests, the dream of driving will not be realized if one fails the eye test.

We find a similar situation in our readings today. Elisha’s desire is to get behind the wheel of life by taking on the mantle – inheriting the prophetic legacy – of his teacher and mentor, Elijah. He asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. And when he eventually receives it, he is empowered to part and to pass through the waters of the Jordan, as Elijah did before him. But notice how he has first to undergo several tests. There is the test of fidelity, which Elisha passes with flying colors. Although Elijah sends him away, Elisha insists on remaining with his master right to the end. Then, there is also a crucial eye test. Elijah agrees to leave Elisha his spirit only if the latter is able to see the former when he is gloriously taken up into the heavens. But why, we may wonder, is it such a challenge to see Elijah? Is there perhaps a haze, such as we sometimes experience in these parts, which obscures his vision? Or is Elisha myopic or suffering from cataracts? A hint as to the possible difficulty is found in the gospel.

Here, Jesus’ concern is to teach us how to become true disciples of his, how to inherit his legacy, just as Elisha inherited Elijah's. Here, not only does Jesus set before us an eye test, but he also indicates to us how our vision can be obscured. Instead of looking at what we need to look at, we often have a tendency to fix our eyes instead on other less significant things. Like the hypocrites that Jesus speaks out against, we might be tempted to become too focused on ourselves and on other people. We become concerned with whether or not others are looking at what we are doing, on what they might be thinking about us, and on how our own performance measures up to that of others. When this happens, we lose sight of the One whose Spirit we seek to inherit. For just as Elisha needs to fix his eyes on the glorious ascent of Elijah, so too are we Christians called to remain attentive to the dying and rising of Christ. But how can we do this if our eyes are filled with the cataracts of vanity and hypocrisy, of comparison and competition, of pride or self-loathing?

When our vision is thus obscured, not only do we lose sight of our suffering and glorious Master, but we also fail to appreciate our own true calling – that we are destined to faithfully navigate the tumultuous waters of life so as to reach the Father’s house on the opposite shore. We forget that what is important for us is not so much how we are perceived by others, or even by ourselves, but by God, the same God who sees all that is done in secret and rewards us accordingly. In such situations, what we need is the healing touch of the Divine Surgeon, gently excising our cataracts, and restoring the acuity of our vision.

How is the Lord testing our eyes today?

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