Sin makes us shortsighted. It limits our perspective. From the apple in the garden onwards, temptation always proposes something easy, something just within our grasp. The serpent did not tell Eve to take a walk around the garden, think over what he had said, and then decide if she should take the apple. Rather, he spoke to her when she could see it, when it was within reach. Temptation employs what is close at hand. Therefore someone who regularly surrenders to temptation becomes spiritually shortsighted. They gradually lose the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. They lose the ability to take the long view.
This is how it was in the days of Noah. They were totally unprepared. Distracted by their feasting and celebrating, they could not read the signs of the times. They had lost sight of God. They had lost sight of any consequence for wickedness: “they did not know it until the flood came and carried them away” (Mt 24:38-39). Sin had made them irreversibly shortsighted and God “regretted that he had made man on the earth” (Gen 6:6). Jesus tells us it will be the same way at the end of time. Most will have lost sight of God. Therefore he tells his disciples to “stay awake.” That means, maintain the long view, keeping our eyes on what is eternal.
As Advent begins this Sunday, we are urged to purify and extend our perspective. Paul exhorts us to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rm 13:12). For if temptation and sin limit our perspective, blinding us to the more difficult and worthier pursuits (especially heaven), then the inverse is also true. Striving for a good moral life, striving for sanctity, lengthens one’s perspective. The false promises of temptation are easily resisted and we begin to see all things in light of our ultimate purpose: eternal happiness with God.
Advent is a time to break from the grip of the world and to train our sight on what truly matters. Advent is a time to take the long view. But this is not always easy. The idea of heaven, the vision of God who is love, may be too abstract to keep our attention. But Advent offers a different focal point (one near at hand): a babe, lying in a manger, coming into this world with nothing but love for you. Now if you’re looking for honor, or pleasure or wealth, you’re not going to find it here. This child is destined for a naked death on a cross. But if your vision is clear, if you’re looking for love, if you’re looking for eternal happiness with God, you need look no further.