My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,
Well, senioritis is definitely setting in here at Chaminade. I collected a set of senior religion reflection papers just a few days ago and, in one class, as many as fifteen students did not have the paper on the day it was due.
Boy! Was I mad! “What’s wrong with these guys?” I hissed under my breath. “It’s not like I sprang this paper on them by surprise. I assigned this paper over a week and a half ago! And it only had to be a page-and-a-half or two pages long!!!! How lazy can they be???!!!”
Luckily, I kept these thoughts to myself and kept calm on the outside. But on the inside . . . on the inside, I was fuming, and getting just about as self-righteous and as indignant as anyone could. “Why can’t these guys be more like me?”
Wait a minute! Reality check: Had I forgotten my own shortcomings? Did I forget the times I had fallen way behind on work during my own high-school and college careers? Had I conveniently blocked from my memory the times I had coaxed my college profs to grant me an extension on one of my papers? And what about the time I dropped a course in college (third-year Latin, of all things!) because I thought that the work load was too much? (I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that in writing before now.)
Perfectionist that I am, I nevertheless had to admit that my academic record was not perfect.
And that’s to say nothing of my own personal record. If I look at the record of my own personal failings, I have to confess that I have no grounds whatsoever for self-righteousness and indignation.
I am reminded of a recent homily that Pope Francis delivered about the pitfalls of Phariseeism – in Christ’s time and in ours. He was speaking of religious rigidity – in other words, modern-day Phariseeism – as a sign of a weak heart. As is so often the case, I was captivated by his words – the directness of them, their humanity, and their spiritual depth:
Even our life can become like that, even our life. And sometimes, I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian, a Christian of that kind, with a weak heart, not firm, not fixed on the rock – Jesus – and with such rigidness on the outside, I ask the Lord: “But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Savior.” Many times a sin will make us feel shame, and make us encounter the Lord, Who pardons us, as the sick who were there and went to the Lord for healing.
The season of Lent is now upon us. Taking our cue from Pope Francis, maybe we could think of the forty days of Lent as precisely that time when the Lord throws a banana peel in front of us. We take a good fall, feel shame that we are sinners, and encounter Christ our Savior. Sin, repentance, and forgiveness – this is the sacred drama of Lent and, of course, of our very salvation. And, if it takes a few banana peels – a few falls, scrapes, and bruises – so be it. If we draw closer to Jesus as a result, all the shame and the pain will be worth it.
I don’t know – it just seems to me that, every time I am riding my high horse, the Lord throws a banana peel in front of me. Lent is a time to turn to the Lord for healing after all the many falls I’ve taken.
Lent looms on the immediate horizon. Looking a little farther into the future, we have already begun preliminary plans for our May retreat for college-age men. Our college-age retreat a couple of weeks ago at Meribah was a tremendous success, I thought. I’m fairly certain that my collaborator on these retreats, Mr. Daniel McQuillan KMHS ’10, would agree, as would the twenty-five or so guys who attended the retreat. We were privileged to hear from three inspiring presenters, and the discussions that followed were some of the most animated and insightful that I have witnessed in my four years of running these retreats.
So, mark your calendars for May 18, 19, and 20 for our next retreat for college-age men. This one will be at Founder’s Hollow. Mr. McQuillan and I are already thinking about themes, presenters, and discussions. We’re very excited about the retreat. We hope that you will be able to join us!
In the meantime, may your Lenten journey afford you many opportunities to encounter Jesus Christ and His saving mercy. Please keep me and all the Marianists in your prayers, as we will keep you in ours, and I will keep you in mine.
In Christ and His Blessed Mother,
Marianists, Province of Meribah