Making the Cut

This week's reflection is written by Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.

At this time of year, finding an empty sports field is a difficult task. With winter sports winding down, the tryout season has begun for sports such as baseball, rugby, lacrosse, and track. Students endeavor to show their skills and make the team, and to share in the camaraderie, adrenaline, and hope for victory that each sport expresses in a unique way. Unfortunately, there will be many who will walk away from these tryouts disappointed. When large numbers of aspiring players compete for a limited number of spots, it is inevitable that some will show more skill than others. Some will be invited to play, while others will be asked to try out again next year.

During this Lenten season, we may also be hoping to undertake a rigorous program of spiritual spring training. Indeed, there is much to be commended about stretching ourselves spiritually during Lent. If one of the primary aims of our spiritual life is to become the best version ourselves as God made us to be, this will often involve challenging ourselves to turn from habits and perspectives that prevent us from reaching our fullest potential.

As with the spring tryouts, it is inevitable that mistakes may be made. The circumstances of life may be like the divots in the ground causing a baseball to take a bad bounce past you, or the gust of wind that blows against you as you’re rounding the last bend on the track. A collection of such small travails may make us feel discouraged. Lent may begin to feel like a tryout, in which we may not “make the cut” as we had hoped.

In these situations, it is sometimes helpful to remind ourselves that in the spiritual life, we are not competing for a limited number of places on a team. The value of our spiritual practice will not be judged quantitatively by what we could or could not accomplish. The essential evaluation will be the way in which we played the game. Were our efforts taken out of sincere love—for ourselves, for others, and ultimately for God? And if they were not, how can we transform our attitude beginning in this present moment?

St. Francis de Sales once wrote pithily that the measure of our love is to love without measure. We do not need to take statistics of how much we have loved, nor how little, of what we have done or failed to do. God will not ask us to wait to try out again next year. Instead, every day, he will ask us to step again onto the field, and begin the game anew.