Lent is a marvelous opportunity for us to open our eyes

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By Fran Salone-Pelletier, Religion Columnist

From the time I was a little girl, I have resented the fact that life’s ills have been laid at the feet of a woman who was enticed by forbidden fruit. No one ever mentioned or questioned her apparent power or intelligence. There was never any comment regarding the fact that she chose what was presented to her as an unreasonably denied good. She was duped by cunning—a primordial serpentine con artist.

Two trees were said to be growing in the middle of the garden. God’s command that the one in the middle be avoided now becomes rather confusing. Which one in the middle bore the forbidden fruit...the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and bad? But the woman and her husband already had the breath of life blown into them. They were already inspired and infused with divinity. There must have been a moment of real wonderment.

In the midst of it all, somehow, the woman recognized a connection between the trees. Did she believe life is both effected and affected when one knows the difference between good and evil? Perhaps it was an intuition that good and evil are intermixed in life. Did curiosity pique her interest? Certainly death was not considered to be part of the equation. She would not have chosen that option.

Whatever impelled the woman, she picked and ate a variegated fruit that was pleasing to the eyes and desirable for gaining wisdom. Unselfishly, she shared it with her husband. There is no hint that she wished to ease her guilt by implicating someone else, only that he was there with her. Sharing was her natural instinct.

Having eaten, they realized that the wisdom held captive in the fruit of Eden’s tree gave both of them sight. It was, however, a blind sight that revealed their nakedness and caused them shame. No longer were they able to see themselves, their naked, vulnerable selves, as good. Gone was the unabashed delight they had in each other, just as they were, with no pretense or expectation. Abasement replaced innocent acceptance. Disgrace entered where grace had abounded.

Their eyes were opened to their true selves and they were blinded by the sight.

That momentous experience began the continuing human battle against blindness. Generation after generation, we have been encouraged and challenged, coaxed and coerced to fight for sight. It is not so much a return to original innocence that we are seeking as it is a renewed vision of vulnerability. It is a trek into transparency where our very soul...our inspirited being...is revealed, both to ourselves and to those whose paths we cross. The fig leaves of fiction we have sown together to mask our goodness and clothe it with prideful pretense slowly disintegrate in the heat of the humility. We may continue a lifelong journey seeing as if in a mirror, darkly, but sight will be ours.

The process is one best recognized when we allow ourselves...give ourselves the time and treasure...of desert experiences. Lent is a marvelous opportunity for us to open our eyes without being blinded by what we see. 

These 40 days of “desert-ed” pilgrimage, an annually renewing event, can bring us face-to-face with our graceful, grace-filled, gracious selves if we enter the land of Lent led by God’s spirit, not our self-centeredness.

It is here, in this place of arid beauty, that we will fast in order to discover our true hunger. Here we meet the tempter who seeks to seduce us into settling for food that meets immediate needs but leaves us aching to fill the void found in an empty heart. Here we will face our irresponsibility. Placing all the blame and work on God, our refusal to respond to the divine invitation to be and become real people will be clearly apparent.

In Lent we learn that blind sight is worse than no sight at all.

Where Adam and Eve seemed to have had a pleasant, pleasurable time in the garden, Jesus’ desert period was spent in fasting and prayer. There was no grand choice of fruit from a variety of trees. Jesus’ boundaries were quite different from those of the first humans. His was the limitation accepted when divinity took on humanity.

Jesus knew and embraced the fact that he would no longer solely eat from the fruit of the tree of total divinity without somehow encompassing his humanity. Fasting for 40 days and nights, he showed us the radical commitment he had made to take flesh and dwell among us. His hunger was real, as was the vulnerability of body and spirit that overtakes anyone who has endured such a physical denial. Yet, he would not succumb to the temptation to eat what was now out of bounds for him.

For Jesus, there was no cover-up. There was only continuing revelation. His nakedness did not bring shame; it granted glory. He would not mask his vulnerability with false divinity but would unveil it in true humanity. Jesus saw clearly, and adoringly gave homage to the God in whom he lived and breathed and found his being. Prayer made all the difference.

Speaking and listening to the Father...sensing the call and power of the Spirit...Jesus contemplated his own, personal, reality. Any questions he might have entertained were subjected to the clear light of prayer and profound silence. His was not blind sight. With open eyes, he knew the dangerous path he would trod in the pursuit of justice and the propagation of mercy, but he did not hide from its peril. He did not clothe the naked facts, except with prayer that strengthened and enlightened.

Lent affords us the opportunity to choose, to select once again a pilgrim’s path. Lent creates a space and place for soul-searching. It returns us to memories of lush gardens of innocence and arid deserts with mountainous choices. Lent is life seen under a microscope as well as a magnifying glass. It brings us into direct contact with the clay of our earthiness and the breath of divinity blown into our nostrils so that we might live.

Lent opens our eyes to all that we are, giving sight to our blindness and gracing our blind sight. True self or enlightened by it? In what ways might this Lenten season help you to gain real sight?