Last week there was the beginning of a reflection on the connection between Spring training and The Season of Lent. Both come around each year. For the game of baseball, the training is essential for every team. Each person that is invited to Spring training already knows how to play the game. There is nothing new about the game to be learned, Spring training is about the finer points. It is the same with you and I as far as Lent is concerned. We know we are Catholic Christians, not just Christians. We know we have been Baptized into the Paschal Mystery, Lent introduces us to the finer points of that Mystery. It is, like all mysteries, an encounter which will never lead us to a complete understanding. Not in this world anyway. Spring training is for those who are involved with the game. When the participation ends, so does the need, the demand to train. With us, Lent is never an option. As long as we are alive we will always have the need to enter the desert, and face, as Jesus faced, the wild beasts that reveal to us our humanity. Thank God, just as He sent ministering angels to strengthen His Beloved Son, so we too, are guaranteed the same consoling presence. As Jesus went so do we. As He was strengthened, so will we. As we know Jesus went more than once to deserted places, so also will you and I. Some desert journeys are chosen, while others of us, we will do everything in our power to avoid. Such is the fate of us humans, as we journey through this vale of tears.
In Spring training the coaches are on the watch for any bad habits that a player may have developed. Now a professional player will not deliberately choose to develop a bad habit. It just seems to sneak into his game. Things are going along fine until he is striking out too much, or being hit too easily. A closer look has to be taken at how he is going about playing the game. In our everyday life we can be going along fine, until we begin to find that we are angrier than usual. Each day we have less and less patience. We find ourselves not very interested in life. We resent those who share their lives with us. There is a great desire to isolate. We are shouting, silently, deep within “will you please leave me alone?”. I have no energy for you. Many times it will come out in a very impolite way. God has been put on the shelf. Prayer time is just the few quiet moments at Mass, that is if I have the energy to get up and get going. The list can go on and on and contain such words as discouragement, disappointment, etc.
In Spring training there are the coaches to keep an eye on the players. Now there are slow motion cameras which are used to analyze the different motions and in time the problem area will be revealed. Not so easy in the spiritual life. We have to enter again and again into the Lenten journey and discover, what it is that is preventing us, in the promise of Jesus, " I have come that you will have life and have it more abundantly" from being part and parcel of our lives. We have to face the persons, or pattern of behavior which are resulting in our eing less than what God has intended our lives to be. His intention is that , "We would have life and live to the fullest". We have to face the dry and barren places of our lives. We have to bring that place of hopelessness to that place of Jesus' abandonment and hopelessness, the cross, and unite our reality with that same reality The God-man experienced. Jesus went to Calvary so that when you and I find ourselves, bruised, broken, betrayed, and abandoned we have a God that can say to us, been there, done that. A coach has to discover a player's weaknesses, our God on the other hand KNOWS our weaknesses from His experience. What we have go do, and boy is this hard, we have to acknowledge our powerlessness, our frailty, our impotence to do anything by ourselves. We will not just jump into that place of surrender. We will, at least for me, fight it tooth and nail, until there is nothing left to do but surrender. Does it get easier? For me, being a hard headed Irishman, surrender has never been easy. I am like a kid who is really tired, his eyes are almost closed, but will not admit that it is time for bed. I am so envious of those who can say so easily, "I surrender it all to God ", and make it sound so easy. I guess I have much more of the training of Lent before me.
So this Lent let us bring that place which is our desert, and ask our gracious God to bring forth, through His power, streams of “LIVING WATER" that will transform the harshness of our present condition, into a life of peace, joy and hope. As one author wrote, " Where there is no love, sew love and you will find love". This may be difficult for some of us. In that case let us express the DESIRE for this to happen, and relax. "Be still and know that I am God."
Let us keep before ourselves, this will be our FIRST LENT.!!!!!!!!!