Let us consider the Gospel passage for today. It is a proclamation that our life in the Church is a continuation of the life of the Holy Apostles. The Apostles constitute eyewitnesses of the work and preaching of Christ in the world. Today’s Gospel reading is one portion of a larger passage in which Saint Matthew the Evangelist records those words which are well-known to us all, the Beatitudes. In the Beatitudes, the Law of Moses and the testimony of the Prophets are summarized and distilled. After that, Christ conveys the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father.” Thus, when Christ spoke the Beatitudes, then was this way of the new life made manifest; with the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God the Father, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, those who hear Him are now the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is in today’s Gospel reading that Christ explains precisely to His listeners how they may be the salt of the earth. He explains to them how to become the power to preserve and to hold fast the faith in the one true God. He also teaches them how they can be the light of the world, calling them to rid themselves of evil thoughts, to put away selfish desires and to share their goods with one another. For when we wish to keep for ourselves alone those things which belong to the whole world, this results in inequality and the exploitation of our fellow human beings. This selfishness leads to brother fighting brother—to brother killing brother—and brings misery upon everything that God has made.
Christ, therefore, sums up human existence with His example of the eye. The eye is called “the lamp of the body,” because it is the organ by which information comes to us from the whole universe. With the eye, we behold all of Creation and our fellow human beings. This information which we take in with our eyes is processed by our mind and guides us to make decisions and take actions. The eye, the faculty of sight, we would say, is the chief bodily sense, the primary power of perception. And so for this reason Christ emphasizes the necessity for the eye to be clear and simple, full of light. Thus, we approach the world and our fellow human beings with simplicity. And in this simplicity we shall be free of selfishness, whether mental or material.
And this is why Christ gives as an example the birds of the air who live without storing up goods for themselves. The birds live by the Providence of God. Christ offers also another example from nature: the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow withers away. With these illustrations, He educates His hearers, and all of us, to become aware of our finiteness; to comprehend our creatureliness, just as the Fathers of our Church teach: so that we might put our trust in God and not be people of little faith; so that we may strive for our faith to blossom as righteousness in our Creator—to blossom, that is, in brotherly thoughts and deeds towards our fellow human beings. To blossom in a sense of confident reliance on the word of God, according to the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. So that we may be free from the egotistical mindset that we are better than our fellow human beings, or even the idea that we are somehow self-sufficient. For this would be a rejection of our very own existence! Our life is so limited in terms of time: And this is the common course of all humanity.
On the contrary, therefore, in light of these certainties of this world, Christ calls His listeners to seek first the Kingdom of God: not simply to seek some future condition … but a present reality. It is for this reason that Christ, after almost everything He says and after every good deed He does towards human beings, speaks of the Kingdom that comes [and the will of God that should be done]: “… on earth as it is in heaven.”+
-Excerpt from a Sermon by Archbishop Elpidophoros, delivered at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Chicago, Illinois on July 7, 2019