Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Training....Spiritual Training

It was cold and windy, for Arizona anyway, on Wednesday when I hiked Telegraph Pass. I was looking at how barren and harsh the desert was to view. I was also reminded of the beauty that is waiting to be revealed in this inhospitable place. Thanks to the great rains, we are going to have wonderful carpets of Spring flowers. On my way, I was surprised when I looked down, it is recommended to keep a steady eye on the trail, and low and behold there was this beautiful small yellow flower at the side of the trail. Yes, winter is here, but there before me was the promise of Spring. Just as there is the certainty of the flowers of Spring, we also in Arizona, have the certainty, at least for now, of Spring training. As Spring training begins, we ask the question, “can the ‘spiritual Spring training’, Lent, be far behind?”. As it was, so it will be again this year, and we hope forever and ever.

Over these many years, I have begun to see the two seasons dedicated to training. Baseball’s Spring training is all about getting back to the fundamentals, pitching, catching, hitting, running the bases. I see this year our Diamondbacks are working on an added dimension, attitude. A healthy team attitude, is built on the concept of unity and commitment. Without these two basics, a team has no future. (For us D-Back fans, let us hope there is a relief pitcher or two in the picture! We have had no "savior" of late.) The season of Lent is our spiritual Spring training. It happens every year. Each year, we too are asked to return to the fundamentals, prayer, fasting, and reaching out to those who are in need, the contemporary suffering Christ. He appears to us in the disguise of the poor, the needy, the sick, the homeless, THE IMMIGRANT, those who are in prison, persons we would choose to avoid, rather than reach out to them. Here is where we have to have an attitude adjustment, if we are going to make it on team Christ.

We are told there is no I, in team. Where egos run unchallenged there is chaos on that team. In Spring training it is the job of the manager, and the coaches, to lay out their way of how things are going to be during the coming season. The players on a healthy team, have either to, shape up or be shipped out. Those only interested in their stats, and their glory will have to be challenged to adjust their attitude. Our egos are sure hard to battle, for ourselves and others. Where the egos reign, rather than the vision of the manager, there will never be a healthy, and happy clubhouse. Managers and coaches on a baseball team have only so much time to work with a player, we who are on team Christ are worked on, our whole life long. The other blessing we have when belonging to His team, we will never be cut, or placed on waivers. We are not bound to this team by contract, we are part of a covenant. A contract ends, a covenant is everlasting, eternal. Just as egos get in the way of a successful baseball team, so too, our egos are constantly getting in the way of the good, orderly, direction, that comes from our Manager, through the coaching of the Holy Spirit. That is the reason for this season we call Lent.

Spring training takes place under ideal circumstances. We see the movement of teams, leaving old, tired, training centers, and taking up residence in those new state of the art facilities. In these facilities everything is laid on. It must be first class. Despite all those wonderful surroundings, during Spring training and afterword during the season players still get played out, they get burned out. Then they have to go through that horrible experience of being traded, or forced to retire. They have come to a dead end. Who looks forward to that? Well for us who are that different team, those dead ends, the great losses, the great disasters, in other the great deaths we are constantly faced with, are just the BEGINNING of a new way of living. All these experiences lead us to a gradual, deeper understanding of that wonder-full Preface prayer, 'Death is NOT an end death is a BEGINNING". That is where we are lead through the experience of temporal death, in an understanding of the mystery of Paschal death. Because it is a mystery, and one of our five supernatural mysteries at that, we must return to it again and again. Not very appetizing, is it? This will happen through our life experiences, when we are forced to confront this reality. On the other hand if we are very, very lucky it is this season of Lent in which makes us enter into, to delve deeper into a mystery we shall NEVER solve. "Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived", now where have you heard that before?
As you know, I love what Meister Eckhart has written, that is the stuff I can understand, The following is entitled, “Led to the Desert"

Consider the divine spirit in the human soul.
This spirit is not easily satisfied.
It storms the firmament
and scales the heavens
trying to reach the Spirit that drives the heavens.
Because of this energy
everything in the world grows green,
flourishes,
and bursts into leaf.
But the spirit is never satisfied.
It presses on
deeper and deeper into the vortex
further and further into the whirlpool,
the primary source
in which the spirit has its origin.
The spirit seeks to be
broken through by God.
God leads this spirit
into a desert
into the wilderness and solitude of the divinity
where God is pure unity
and where God gushes up within Himself.