Helen Keller, blind and deaf for almost her entire life, said: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.” In chapter 9 of John’s gospel, one man is without sight, but there are his parents whose vision is darkened by fear of displeasing those in authority; there are the Pharisees whose vision is darkened by arrogance and self-righteousness.

Jesus did more than restore the man’s sight; Jesus called him to a new vision of life, an entirely different way of seeing. It seems that the cured man embraced this invitation for he responds: “I believe” and then worshiped him.” Jesus confronted the narrow vision of the Pharisees, but we don’t know if any of them took his words to heart.

If there is anything Jesus came to give us, it was a new way of seeing. His entire life, his words and actions, were meant to open the possibility of living a vision that would guide us through every joy and sorrow in life.

Reflecting on what it means to live the gospel vision, a physical condition came to mind. I remember picking up a medicine bottle and discovering I could no longer read the small print. As our body ages, the lens becomes harder and less elastic which makes it more difficult for the eye to focus on close objects. The medical term for this is presbyopia.

Like the fearful parents or the smug Pharisees, we can develop spiritual presbyopia when we focus primarily on ourselves and slide into me-centered behaviors. What could be some outward signs of this condition? Maybe we become less flexible or stubbornly cling to our own opinion or are overly judgmental, or frequently succumb to fear or grumbling or to staying in our comfort zone. Whatever it may be, the results are a heart that is less elastic, a focus that is cloudy and a gospel vision that is shrinking. We’ve become a spiritual squinter. We’ve contracted spiritual presbyopia!

St. Benedict quotes scripture passages to “open our eyes to the light that comes from God,” not to “harden our hearts,” and to “run while we have the light of life that the darkness of death may not overtake us.”

Lent is about preparing for Easter. One way we get ready is by scrutinizing the ways our gospel vision may need some re-focusing. Lest we become discouraged, scripture constantly reassures us that no matter how many times our vision may have narrowed, God’s mercy and forgiveness are ever-present.

As we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, this Lent is like no other. We don’t need to go looking for additional sacrifices; they’ve come to us. In the days ahead, it will be tempting to begin to spiritually squint, to allow our vision to narrow and focus on our restrictions and personal inconveniences. Yet, as people of faith, this is a time for widening our vision, for growing in gratitude for the ordinary in life, for deepening our compassion for our brothers and sisters in the world community and for stretching our hearts to be a joyful presence to one another. It is a time to be living reminders to one another that at our very core we are Christ-bearers, light-bearers.

At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, the presider lights a candle from the new fire, and raising it, proclaims: May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds. We don’t need to wait for Easter to hear these words; they would be good to pray now, every day.

Helen Keller was so right: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

A view from the Mount is a series of columns written by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica and edited by Sister Judith Sutera, OSB. Please provide any feedback to the Sisters by calling 913-360-6200.

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