Thursday, February 28, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
Step back in time. It is March, and it is still cold. There is more than a bit of residue of snow in Central Park. Classes ended at 2:55 p.m., and so the 15 year old me has raced down from the 5th floor home room to the locker room in the basement, rushed to change into jeans and sweatshirt, grabbed my glove, catcher’s mask and whatever else Mr. (Coach) Byrnes commands that we lug over to the park, and so about 20 of us go racing across W. 87th street to the park entrance, find a diamond that is relatively useable, and thus begins first Spring baseball practice. The rites of Spring have begun! The “boys of summer” have arrived.
Of course today the way older me sometimes watches Spring training games on TV. But more often, I just take in the hints that winter’s bitter winds and death like grip is lessoning. Days are getting longer. Even the TV personality shadow-deprived weather “rats” have given us hope for a quicker end to winter’s gloom. Springtime may still be on the horizon, but at least it is there. Spring for me meant discipline, hard work, but eventual fun.
In the cycle of our liturgically corporate lives, the same message is about to be sent. Next week (finally) Ash Wednesday will arrive and in anticipation of Easter’s Message and Easter’s Joy, we are asked to become a part of the story of a church community that prepares itself with the disciplines of penance. It is the time for “spring training” for the soul, as it were.
For more than a few centuries, these 40 days of LENT was a highly touted period for self-reflection, admission of our human fallibility and the need for reform and renewal, but also for preparing ourselves for the most significant feast of the Church year: Easter. “Spring Training” is a weak comparison to be sure. It is NOT about what WE DO to get into spiritual shape. It IS a time to participate with others in any spiritual discipline so that we open our hearts more to receive the glorious gift of salvation that HAS BEEN DONE FOR US in Christ.
I hope you are all looking forward to this season as a preparation for Easter’s joy – “Christ has died. Christ is Risen. Christ will come again!” And because of what Christ has done for us, the days will become longer, the sun will be warmer, and the athletic “rites of Spring” will merely be a symbolic anticipation of all the wonders that our loving God has prepared for us.