by Father Mark Goldasich
Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful to them. Although the frames and prescriptions have changed over the years since I started wearing them in fourth grade, one thing hasn’t changed: the pleasure of seeing the world clearly.
Every March, I remember a happy pairing: the season of Lent with national Save Your Vision month. As eyeglasses sharpen our physical eyesight, Lent offers an opportunity to refocus our spiritual sight.
According to experts, one of the most common eye problems today is DES, which stands for “digital eye strain”. Most of us spend far too much time staring at screens (smartphones, computers, tablets, and video games), which leads to eye irritation, dryness, fatigue, and blurred vision.
Spiritually speaking, we also suffer from “I” pressure, losing our focus on our dependence on God and each other. This condition leads to arrogance, selfishness and excessive concern for the things of this world.
Just as specialists in eye care treat illnesses of physical vision, so specialists in Lenten “I” care – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – seek to cure illnesses of the soul.
When approaching anything, however, perspective is important. Roger Dawson illustrates this well when he comments on “The Jungle Is Neutral”, a book by Fred Spencer:
Spencer was a British soldier serving in a small garrison in Singapore during World War II. The defense of the garrison was one-sided. The soldiers expected any attack to come from the sea, as they believed that no army could cross the impenetrable jungles of the north. They were wrong. The Japanese sailed through these thick jungles and Singapore fell with relative ease.
However, Spencer was able to escape and spent nine months living in the jungle. Because he had heard two conflicting reports about the jungle, he didn’t really know what to expect. On the one hand, he had heard it was filled with snakes and insects, fruit so poisonous one bite would kill you, and vicious wild animals. A man would die there very quickly. Another story, however, viewed the jungle as a lush tropical paradise, filled with abundant fresh water and edible fruits, making it a place anyone could survive almost effortlessly.
What Spencer discovered during his months there was that the jungle was neutral. It could either destroy it or sustain it. In other words, his survival depended on how much effort he put in to survive. He could make this environment whatever he wanted it to be. (Story adapted from “The Sower’s Seeds” by Brian Cavanaugh.)
Lent is also neutral. Its “success” depends on the effort that everyone puts into it.
For healthy physical eyes, experts recommend these strategies: Zoom in (read text in a larger font size on screens rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes); roll your eyes from side to side or up and down (to lubricate and strengthen them); invest in a quality pair of sunglasses.
We could apply these same suggestions during Lent for healthy spiritual selves:
• Zoom in on people in your neighborhood, parish or community that you usually overlook. Notice and respond to their needs as you practice almsgiving.
• Roll your eyes at temptations to abuse in any way and welcome the discipline of fasting by excessive eating, drinking, spending or wasting time.
• Invest in quality “Sound” glasses. Take the time to pray more this Lent through spiritual reading, the Stations of the Cross, meditative meditation from the Bible or quiet conversations with the “Son” – not only to know him better, but to see the world through her goals.
These 40 days of Lent are offered to us but not imposed by the Lord. He is patiently waiting to “see” what we are going to do with it.