You should have gone to Specsavers.’
‘You should have gone to Specsavers,’ - surely one of the most quoted advertising strap-lines? It’s a line we use in our house whenever someone fails to see what’s right under their eye. It’s used as a form of gentle ridicule.
Today’s Gospel reading is about seeing and perceiving. But, it starts with the rather strange thought that what we see will be conditioned by the state of our heart. In a very real sense we are only capable of seeing what we want to, or are trained to, see. So here are a couple of questions: ‘What do you want to see,’ and ‘how have you trained your eyes to see?’ Or put another way: ‘what lenses are you looking at the world through.’
These are important questions because the Gospel suggests that the rich man really should have gone to Specsavers, not only would his eyesight have been improved but his soul would have been saved. The fact that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t see properly, ultimately cost him everything.
For St. Paul ‘godliness,’ is related to how we see and perceive the world around us. And, the challenge is to see the world around us as God sees it. This is the beginning of Godliness. We can, of course, only do this if we train our eyes properly. And, the way we train our eyes is by treading Scripture slowly in such a way as to allow it to penetrate our very souls and, through prayer.
Through reading and absorbing Scripture, and through prayer, we develop the ability to see both what is immediately under our noses whilst looking far into the distance into ‘eternal life.’ We get to wear a divine set of varifocal lenses! We develop the ability, in the words of St. Paul, to ‘take hold of eternal life,’ whilst simultaneously responding to the Gospel imperative to see the contemporary Lazarus’ laying at ‘our gate.’ And, they really are there.
Of course the rich man in the gospel story knew his Scriptures; we are told that he knew all about Moses and the Prophets. What he didn’t know, because he couldn’t see properly, was that the whole point of Moses and the Prophets, and let’s not forget that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, is inclusion and liberation for all. Grace and mercy extend to the poor, the outcast and the plain different. But, he couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t, see this. Why? Because the orientation of his heart was wrong; he prized and valued the wrong things. He thought in a highly distorted way that his earthly material status would somehow impact on his eternal status. He should have gone to Specsavers!
And, I guess that we should all from time to time go for an eye test; you see we can know all about faith and religion but without living as though we do.
To live a godly life, beginning with paying attention to the state of our own hearts, and then seeing the very real human need that surrounds us and responding to it with love, is the challenge of today’s readings. Your challenge and mine.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown