Friday, June 19, 2015

And to Walk Humbly With Your God

"This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God."
-Micah 6:8

I recently came across the story of Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a middle-distance runner from Spain, and his act of sportsmanship. It occurred during an international event in late 2012. The short form of the act is this:

Ivan was in 2nd place heading into the end of the race. The 1st place runner, only a short distance away from the finish line but unaware of its actual location, slowed down thinking that he had already crossed it. Ivan, aware of the whereabouts of the finish line, signaled to the 1st place runner that the race's endpoint was still ahead. The 1st place runner sped back up and won the race. Ivan could have easily blown past the runner, capturing the victory in the final moments as a result of this logistical error. When asked about why he did this, Ivan responded,

He was the rightful winner, He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him.

Anaya continued, "But even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn’t have done it either. I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well."

It is unfortunate that more hasn't been said of the gesture. Maybe there is still hope that this act of humility can reach a broader audience. And, even though Ivan claims that he feels he has earned more of a name for himself having done this, I am sure that his desire for fame was not the motivating factor behind this act.

Run humbly with your God.

At our ICS graduation ceremony for the Class of 2015, another astounding act of humility occurred. Ian Stahley, in his Salutatorian speech to the rest of his class, acknowledged, congratulated and praised the Valedictorian, Max Hernandez. I was astounded. Ian is an incredible young man, and I was not surprised that he would be capable of such a strong act, but this was his moment to shine, his speech, his award. And, instead of basking in the glory, he paid authentic tribute to another. 

Speak humbly with your God. 

I had the great honor in early May to attend the wedding of Patrick Graff (former ICS ACE teacher) to Laura Miller at the University of Notre Dame. As most weddings are, this was a day filled with joy, happiness and blessings. The ceremony was beautiful, the reception lively. Even the weather, forecasted as a day of rain, cooperated with only a few sprinkles. It was a day filled with grace.
But, perhaps the most AMAZING moment of grace (outside of the transformative Sacrament of Marriage, of course!) took place at the reception. 

Unbeknownst to his bride and all but a few of his close friends who had helped orchestrate the necessary materials, Patrick ambushed the garter moment by taking the microphone and telling Laura and the entire group assembled that he had a gift he wanted to give her. He cited her family’s Holy Thursday tradition of washing each others’ feet  as he proceeded to procure a pitcher of water and basin and invited Laura to the middle of the dance floor to sit and allow him to wash her feet. She humbly agreed and what ensued was one of the most beautiful moments between any two people I have ever witnessed or even heard of. The room fell silent. People cried. Those who didn’t sat awestruck. Grace was abundantly present.

Laura followed Patrick’s lead and washed his feet. It was an AMAZING sign of their service and submission to God and to each other.

Serve humbly with our God. 

Imagine how different our world could be if these events replaced the common ones – where service supplants being served, where doing the right thing is commonplace and where love reigns supreme.

Imagine a world filled with people courageous enough to kneel down – humbly, lovingly, powerfully – and serve. 

Love one another, Jesus tells us, as I have loved you. Love one another, I tell you, as Patrick and Laura love, as Ian loves, as Ivan loves.

The Incarnation came through humble beginnings. The Incarnation lived humbly. The Incarnation ended in humility - in service, with love. 

May we, too, act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly - in service and with great love.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Divine Pick-Me-Up

Throughout the course of the Easter season, my prayer life took me on a journey into a deeper and more intimate understanding of the Holy Spirit. Admittedly, prior to this past Easter, I had only a nascent knowledge of the complexities of the Holy Spirit. While I cannot say that I've aspired to mastery, much of my prayer time throughout Easter afforded me time to study and contemplate the mystery of the Holy Spirit. 

Two weeks ago we celebrated the birthday of the Church - Pentecost Sunday - when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples. It was at this moment that the disciples were infused with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Perhaps one of the best resources I found unpacked these 7 gifts and allowed my feeble mind to more clearly differentiate between and among them:

Furthermore, I came to the awareness that living in with and in the Spirit allows for us to live almost as Christ would - responding as if by instinct to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

In many ways, recognizing the power of the Holy Spirit and living in accordance with it grants superhuman abilities. Wisdom gives us the desire to pursue the heart of the Lord. Understanding allows us to inch closer to mentally grasping that heart. Counsel gives us the ability to act in accordance with the heart of God. Fortitude gives us the strength to persevere in searching out His heart. Knowledge makes it possible for us to see our lives in the context of God's plan. Piety inspires us to worship Him (and be strengthened and enlivened by Him). Fear of the Lord confirms the virtue of hope - we live with conviction in a way that trusts in the promise of salvation and does whatever it takes to live in accordance with that covenant. 

Living with and in the Spirit, we come to realize that the only way to complete His mission, our mission in Him, is to spend time with Him in prayer. We have done this in beautiful ways this year. It has infused me with more energy than I thought possible, more hope than I thought realistic, and more joy than I thought feasible. 

In a passage from the importance of prayer is clearly articulated:

Our time for prayer is a sacred time that activates our spirit and our spiritual energy. It brings to life the apostolic character in every Christian. Do not turn to God only when you ask for something or you fear the unknown; do not turn to God just because you have time available and you don’t know what to do with it.
Prayer is essential for all human life, for the simple reason that God created human life and as Blessed Fr. Sopocko wrote, “out of His generosity, God wants to give us many gifts, but makes dependent His graces on our free will and on our prayer which is a key to His Mercy.
These graces are like a fountain, but to benefit from it, you need to bring a vessel to the fountain: this vessel is humble and confident prayer. Throw yourself on your knees before God and expose your heart to Him.”
We have to realize that without Him we cannot survive even for one minute. Without this “permanent link” to God, we cannot live life to its potential. The more active we are, the more we need to make time for prayer, otherwise it is very easy to burn-out both mentally and spiritually. When Cardinal Martini said to some young priests, that they needed at least half an hour a day for personal prayer, one of them replied, “Your Eminence, we get up early every morning, we celebrate Holy Mass, then we run to the school, then back again, we barely have time to eat breakfast and then we have to be back in the parish office, and you are asking us to spend half an hour adoration?” At this, the Cardinal thought for a moment then said, “Indeed, it seems this priest needs more than half an hour for prayer, maybe even one hour.”
This is a valid spiritual advice for all of us, the busier we are, the more we need time for prayer. But time for prayer won’t come by itself; you have to “take it back”. On a spiritual level, prayer is our “to be or not to be.” To find time for prayer, you need to know what are the most important thing in your life. Here you need a clear awareness of your priorities.

May we continue to activate this spiritual energy and may we continue to recognize the imperativeness of finding time for prayer - the spiritual cup from which we come to receive our daily Divine pick-me up. 

I guess it's the reason we call it "daily bread".

Give it to us this day and always.