I had the amazing opportunity the week before last to travel to Rome for the diaconate ordination of a former student of mine, Alex Padilla. My time at the Vatican offered me ample opportunity to pray, reflect and explore. Being in the home of our Church, seeing the head of our Church, and being in the Church for the Celebration of the Eucharist and an Ordination fed me in many ways. I went to Mass three times in four days. I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran.
At the same time, I ate too much and I slept too little. I worked too often and I missed my girls.
Furthermore, I desired more time in Vatican City and Rome but longed to be back home almost immediately after the conclusion of the events of Thursday. I felt incredibly blessed to go while simultaneously feeling guilty about leaving work and my family.
During our beginning of the year retreat, we focused on the concept of margin – the difference between our load and our limit. While I have definitely longed for more margin in my life and recognized the importance of fighting for it, I have also come to realize that the ideal space between these two concepts – or any two – must be met with a healthy tension.
Like a rubber band, if it is too loose, it doesn’t hold. Too tight and it breaks.
But, with an appropriate amount of tension it has purpose and strength. It holds together while still being able to adapt and adjust.
Too much margin and we may lose our way; too little and we snap. But, with an appropriate amount of tension between our load and our limit we can find strength and purpose. It is the space that allows us to engage in healthy risks that push us just beyond our capabilities. It is the balance between entitlement and despair that drive us to accomplish and help. It is the interplay between heaven and earth. It is the fight between who we are and who we are created to be.
The homily from the Ordination, given by his Eminence Timothy Cardinal Donal, focused on the mystery of the contradictions of our lives of faith – the balance, tension, and margin between submission and freedom, fullness and being emptied, life and death, humility and salvation. St. Therese was a cloistered nun and yet she is now known throughout the world. St. Peter was a cowardly fisherman who was given the keys to the Kingdom of God.
We, too, can find Christ in this balance, in these interplays and paradoxes. He turns water into wine. He turns sinners into saints. He brings life from even death.
It is in these contradictions that He can transform us, too. There is grace in living in the balance, the tension, the margin.
Let Him turn your "life upside down, with your head on the ground and your feet aimed heavenward" (Cardinal Donal). Give and you will receive. Knock and the door will open. Fight for balance. Embrace tension. Seek margin.
Leave everything behind and give Him every part of you.
It is the safest risky move and the riskiest safe move you’ll ever make.