One of the fruitful parts of this silly Lenten experiment I started 6 weeks ago is that it has forced me to focus more heavily on things to write. I feel as though I've opened my eyes, ears and heart wider. I've searched for sources of inspiration. Most frequently this Lent, I have found them in my faith.
There is a little over 1 week left in Lent. I've taken advantage of Lent's "off days", but have persevered thus far in being on task to complete 40 blogs in "40" days. There is definitely something to be said for making a goal known to others; I may have gone directly against Jesus's words we heard on Ash Wednesday but the accountability I feel towards those who read this blog has helped propel me closer to the total allotment of posts. I'm not done and in many ways I feel that I may have traded quality for quantity, but I have rediscovered some small semblance of resilience in myself while on this journey.
As I've struggled to bear this literary load, I have reflected on how important developing resiliency in students is. We need to help students get smarter. We need to help them be better. We need to help them develop maturity, responsibility, compassion, a sense of self and a sense of their vocation. But, we also need to make them resilient. We need to temper them. We need to help them find some inner grit. We need to help students see that when life pushes them around - a difficult subject, trouble with their peers, frustrations over their self-image - that they need to push back. I'm not advocating violence. What I am advocating is giving our students the resolve needed to remain true to their beliefs, committed to those they love and undeterred from the work given to them to do.
Without heat and pressure there would be no diamond.
This concept of resiliency resurfaced in my faith life recently. In listening to a mission talk by Monsignor James Patrick Shae, the President of the University of Mary, I was struck by the stark contrast between both Peter and Pilate and Jesus. On the one hand we have Jesus and His constant forward movement born out of love, and built by faith. His resiliency is heroic. He stays true to Himself, true to His Father, true to His Mission. He heals one of the guards ears as He is being arrested. He testifies that He is Truth. He is beaten, bloodied and bruised. He carries his Cross willingly, lovingly. He falls but gets back up multiple times. He continues to teach and guide and forgive all the way up to His final breath. It is somewhat of an unfair comparison, but Jesus embodies resiliency - He even bounces back from death! - while both Peter and Pilate embody defeat.
We know Peter's story so well. How often are we Peter? How many times do we deny even knowing Jesus? We skip Mass. We don't have time to pray. We never mention our faith to those who don't believe. We acknowledge Jesus (maybe) with our lips, but deny Him with our hearts and minds. When pushed, we fall. When pressed, we crumble. Call me Peter.
Pilate's story, while known, may be met with more forgiveness than Peter's. Pilate tries to do just about everything and anything to keep Jesus alive. He sends Jesus to be scourged. He sends Jesus to Herod. He questions Jesus. He tries to have Jesus released. Surely Pilate was just keeping the peace, right? He washes his hands of the sentence, blaming it on the unruly crowd.
But, Pilate could have stopped it all. "I find this man guilty of no crime," Pilate says, but fails to finish the sentence in the way that he should. He crumbles under the power of his office, of keeping his position, of keeping the peace. Pilate, though, could have ordered the soldiers at his command to keep the peace. He could have demanded that Jesus be treated in the way that Pilate deemed. He gave in. He succumbed. He reasoned away this heinous crime, the most heinous in all of history. He did everything within his power except use his power.
When pushed, we fall. When pressed, we crumble. We have a false sense of strength. We have a false sense of our goodness. I already do service in my job - I work for the Church. I get paid so little anyways, and yet I still give. I have written almost 40 blogs. Call me Pilate, too.
We don't necessarily get to hear the end of Pilate's story. Perhaps he had some sort of conversion. Perhaps he learned a valuable lesson and started to use his power and authority to do good. Perhaps.
We do know Peter's end. The first Pope, Jesus entrusts Peter with the keys to the kingdom. Despite a failure, three of them actually, on the night that Jesus was condemned, Peter displays resiliency. Peter was a slow learner, but ultimately a resilient one, too.
Our story isn't complete. Lent isn't over.
There is still time. Time to become resilient. Time to be resilient.
Time to begin.