26th Sunday Ordinary Time – The EYES have it!
What is it about these “windows to the soul,” these “windows to the world” that should be cast out or be cast into Gehenna?
Mark’s gospel puts ophthalmos, “eye,” to use in several key ways. Again, it’s not about sex. Let’s look.
The NRSV renders ophthalmos poneros as “envy” or “evil eye.” (The Green Monster within.)
Mark 7:20–23 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The second occurrence is key. After having fed the 5000, they all pile in the boat to cross the sea. Jesus told them: “Beware the leaven of the scribes and the leaven of the Pharisees.” They didn’t get it. Jesus asks them whether they are so bound up in idolatry that they have begun to resemble idols – eyes but don’t see; ears but don’t hear.
Mark 8:16–19 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
And, just before Sunday’s passage, Jesus heals the eyes of a person – signifying both the difficulty of curing his sight, but also pointing to what he came to see clearly – Jesus!
Mark 8:23–25 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes [ommata – eye balls] and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes [ophthalmos] again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Here is what that person saw: And what was so difficult for the scribes, Pharisees, and disciples to see…
Mark 12:8–11 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
Finally, Mark’s ‘final’ word on the disciples happens just before Jesus’ arrest, passion, death, and resurrection. It indicates the significance of the resurrection for the Twelve, the disciples to see anything. “Cast it out!” Their envy left them blind.
Mark 14:40 (NRSV) — 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
Therefore, Jesus directs us to “cast out” our envy. And probably that sense of “not having enough” which skews our sight. What do you think about that?