Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:21-23)
In the Himalayas the intense ultraviolet rays from the sun pierce the thin mountain air and burn people’s eyes. 65-year old Teteeni is blind. From Kathmandu comes Dr. Sanduk Ruit with a pioneer surgery that he has developed, and he treats many people with eye problems. Teteeni receives the surgery and she can see again! As she walks back to her village, she thanks heaven: “May Heaven reward Dr. Ruit… My heart is filled with light.” (Teteeni’s story was featured in the “Mountains: Life in Thin Air” episode of the BBC series, Planet Earth, The Human Planet. The entire episode is available online here. The Teteeni segment begins at about the 34-minute mark.)
How beautiful, how simple. This old Buddhist woman who probably never heard of Jesus understood the meaning of light. She understood the connection of light and heart. Let’s hear those word of Jesus again: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Today, as Christianity stagnates in Europe and North America, the most vibrant expressions of faith are to be found in Asia, Africa and Latin America.The Korean New Testament scholar Yung Suk Kim was asked what he thought was the primary work of Jesus. Here is how he replied. I love how he translates the two verses from Mark.
I believe that Jesus’ primary message is well summarized in Mark 1:14-15. “After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and God’s rule has come near; change your heart and believe in the good news.” As we see here, Jesus proclaims the good news of God; it is God’s good news. Good news is about God: God’s time and God’s rule has come in the here and now (perfect tense). For God’s time and rule to be effective, people have to accept it by changing their minds, which is what metanoia means.
Note the differences between his translation of Mark 1:14-15 from the more conventional translation in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” Note how Kim renders the words in the RSV which I have italicized.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “Home is where the heart is” – so goes a popular saying, though you don’t hear it very often nowadays. We’re too sophisticated now for such tidbits of old fashioned wisdom. Right, too sophisticated, because now home is where our smartphone is.
Treasure, home, heart, light – images of God’s good news. Look at today’s miracle story (Mark 2:1-12). Let’s talk about the house where the miracle took place. You go home after a long day on the job, and you want your home to be a place of rest, of escape from all the day’s labors. But here in the Gospel was a house that was overtaken by people who came to see and hear a celebrity. And the presence of that crowd transformed that house into a church, a cathedral even. It was now a place where the Good News was seen and heard. Jesus was in the house!
So what does it mean for Jesus to be in the house? Your house? This house, this church house? Our Gospel reading tells us.
- When Jesus is in the house, the Word is spoken. This word cuts to the core of our being, challenging us, converting us, transforming us, making us holy.
- When Jesus is in the house, the poor, the outcasts of society, both faithful and sinners, the strong and the weak, the rich and poor, the sick and the healthy – they will all gather, until there is no more room.
- When Jesus is in the house, drastic steps might have to be taken. The roof might have to be taken off. The roof that keeps us warm and comfortable in our usual ways, in the way things have always been done, comfortable in our dogmas, our culture, our Liturgy. Sometimes we have to blow the roof off the way things were always done and think in new ways.
- Finally, when Jesus is in the house, forgiveness and healing will take place. They will take place! Regardless of how many cold hearts are around. Regardless of how little light there is. And that’s when you have to tear the roof – for healing and forgiveness to take place.
As with all miracle stories of Jesus, this too is a parable in action, challenging us, and questioning us: Are we really ready for Jesus to be in the house? But be advised, we might have to tear up the roof!