I first became aware that I was terribly nearsighted when I was in the 4th grade. My father, an avid sportsman, would take me out in the backyard to play catch. I think he was hoping that I would share his passionate love for baseball and would soon participate in our neighborhood Little League team. There was only one problem – a big problem – I couldn’t catch the ball! The more we practiced, the more I got hit – on my arm, on my leg, on my head. With an apparent vengeance, the ball landed everywhere but the mitt. Finally, after an eye exam, the optometrist quickly got to the core of my baseball problem. I just could not see the ball coming until it was too late and then I’d get hit. Well, the upshot of the story is, that by the time the diagnosis came and I began to sport glasses, you guessed it, I hated baseball!
My vision problems, my ability to see clearly the things up close and not far away, presents us with a possible analogy for the struggle that is part and parcel of our human condition, the struggle with temptation and sin. On this First Sunday of the Lenten Season, the Church traditionally sets before us in the Gospel, the story of the Lord’s own temptation by the evil one in the desert. This is preceded by the earliest Scriptural account of temptation in the Book of Genesis, the storied eating of the forbidden fruit by Eve.
My friends, at the heart of all temptation is the allure of something that in our limited or short sighted moral perspective seems to be, appears to be, wonderful, good and pleasurable. Temptation rarely if ever is the attraction for us to knowingly reach out for something that is obviously evil or self-destructive. The temptation to infidelity begins with the alluring attraction to the beauty and goodness of another person. It is only when we put on the vision of the moral values that give ultimate meaning to our lives, do we realize and see the bigger picture – that this lovely person belongs to someone else and we too have commitments of faithfulness that ultimately would make such a decision a violation of all that it means to be a person of moral integrity, truth and goodness.
Just as it took a good eye doctor to help diagnose my problem with catching a baseball, providing glasses enabling me to see with greater perspective, so it is for us as people of faith. We are all in constant need of broadening and deepening our moral vision that gives us the perspective of doing something so absolutely fundamental and essential in living out our life of faith daily – doing good and avoiding evil.
That is why, my friends, this Season of Lent is so important. We began this Season last Wednesday as we heard the words, Repent and believe in the Gospel, prayed over us as ashes were placed on our foreheads. Clarity in our moral vision begins with honestly and humbly acknowledging that we are all in need of the healing mercy of our loving God. The courage to do good and to resist the allure of temptation, requires the grace to keep before our eyes the bigger picture of our lives, the eternal destiny to which we have been called by the Lord. The grace to resist the incessant call to give in to immediate gratification and to live for the eternal values that Christ, lived, died and rose for, is what repentance and Christian conversion is all about.
May this Lent be a time for all of us to drink deeply of this grace and in doing so, see clearly the life to which we have all been called to live in Christ.