Saturday, March 2, 2013


It is Spring training time here in the Arizona desert. Players, managers, coaches, owners, fans are making their annual trip into the desert. Well all, except our Diamondbacks, of course. They are a fixture. All are coming into the desert, into spring training with a sense of renewed hope. For last year’s winners there the great desire to build on last year’s successes and, hopefully, lay the foundation for a dynasty to be created. As for the rest, those who did not taste the sweet nectar of success, they come with a deep sense of renewed hope. These individuals cannot depend on hope alone, without hard work, nothing will happen. The latter teams cannot create a new energy, a new team spirit by just hanging around and doing nothing. A new winning team chemistry will only happen with a great deal of self sacrifice, and hard work. A turnaround is not going to happen unless there is a lot of letting go. Letting go of all that lead to loosing. The old bad habits, must be challenged, so too the lack of concentration must be addresses, again and again. The attitude that leads to sloppy play, and any disinterest in the building up of a healthy team spirit cannot be tolerated. "There is no I in team". A healthy team is not created overnight. A team is the reflection of the health of each individual. There are some players really gifted, but are not team players. Others may not be as gifted but know how to let go of their egos, and buy into the concept of the good of the team. Every Christian Community faces the same challenge. There is no place for egotistical ego, in a faith community. Why? Ego, can be broken "into, ease, God out". It takes many, many Lents, many journeys to Calvary before we are able to say we are Christian. To be able to say, with St. Paul, "I live, no, not I, it is Christ Who lives within me. "In the same way it will take many Spring trainings to mold a group of individuals into a smooth working machine. There is no secret in how a team becomes a team, and a community becomes a healthy community. It begins with reverence and respect. There must be a great sense of reverence and respect for each and every component of the community and organization. Each and every person must be seen as essential to the overall well being. There are no menial jobs. Each has a dignity that demands reverence and respect. Of course that is the ideal, none the less that must be our goal. We are dealing with human beings, not human doers. "As we see ourselves so we will see others". As we grow in the reverence of all that we see as "little", will all that we have seen, or thought to be "little" now takes on sacramental value. Our God comes to us mainly through the so called "little". That is why great managers, and great coaches pay extreme attention to little things. "Little things", that to the casual observer, or a player that is not properly focused, seem so mundane they have seemingly no obvious value. When confronted to perform the "little", they are overwhelmed by the pressure of the moment, and blow the play. Now they are teachable. So in Spring training managers, coaches, players there will be the challenge of how to meet the monotony of the daily grind. The grind that comes with the somewhat monotonous daily routine, as the fundamental plays are work on again, and again. Then they are repeated again, and again, ad infinitum. This repetition takes place until, both the simple plays, and difficult ones become automatic put outs for the team. These plays are not new, they have been part of their life's experience for many years. Over the years how often have they practiced the triple play, the double play, the relay from deep center field, the pick-off move? Yet they will repeat all these plays again and again. Why? It is because when the regular season begins these plays have become so automatic that at crunch time they do not have to stops and think what to do, it is automatic. When the game is on the line what looks to be so difficult, happens automatically. It has become second nature to them, as individuals, and as a team. A sense of confidence has been created. The individuals who are coming together, and are being molded into a team, now have a new spirit, a new attitude. The past is past. What is important is how I play each play. The veterans, and the rookies cannot make a double play happen by just looking at a video, or by just listening to the coach, it is all about practice, practice, and practice some more. One cannot just think their way into a smooth double play combination you have to act your way into the mindset necessary to make it happen. The best will in the world cannot make it happen, hard work is essential. Now you may say, we are in the season of Lent, and you are writing about Spring training what gives? Well do you know that another word for Spring is Lent. So, they are interchangeable. The Cubs, The Dodgers, The Giants, are here for what can really be called Lent Training. In the same way the season of Lent is the season of our training. Is there much of a difference between these two seasons? Not really. They are complementary. What is true for one, is also true for the other. Each has a basic physical, psychological, spiritual component. For us Christians the "triple play" we are asked to practice is prayer, fasting, and the practice of works of charity. We have been challenged by these three over the years, not as we are, THIS year. Just as Spring training is ever and always new, so our Lent/Spring training is ever new. Just as for the baseball players bad habits must be addressed, so for us we have the courage to face the unhealthy habits that have crept so insidiously into our lives. Each Lent, we are forced into the desert of the human condition to be confronted a new of this reality: "We are spiritual beings immersed in the human experience ", immersed in the human condition. A reality we journey ever deeper into. A journey we never embark on alone. All the "wild beasts" we encounter have already been encountered by Him in whose footsteps were following. Are we to be discouraged with the "wild beasts" that inhabit our present day desert? Of course not. When faced they are "just paper tigers." (Johnson) Our journey into the heart is a wonder-full, mysterious one. Full of risks and rewards. When we have the courage to face all that is in the depths of deserts of our hearts we come to the place Thomas Merton referred to, as le point verge, (the virgin point)---"the center of our nothingness where in apparent despair, one meets God,---and is found completely at HIs mercy......At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God...this little the pure glory of God in us..It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody "That is what is awaiting us as we plunge into and penetrate the dark depths of who we are. Spring training for ONE team will end in the passing glory of a World Series. We who have been called blessed and broken, will nor receive that which is transitory. What awaits us is a new heaven and a new earth. The past is past, in its place is a new creation. Not made with human hands but brought into existence through the unseen workings of The Holy Spirit. The creative love of our Gracious Father/Mother God make all things new, not make new things. Is.43:18&19, "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? It is in the solitude, nothingness, loneliness, brokenness, and fear-full-ness of our human heart this is slowly revealed. Lent....... Is.....our.... Spring.."..Training.

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