Welcome to the meanderings of Mr. Tremblay's mind. Sometimes it moves too fast for me to handle, so I hope I don't even lose my own thoughts while attempting to re-present unoriginal ideas that are too profound and true for me to comprehend.
We just concluded a season of competition with defeat. Observing the season from the perspective of a coach, administrator, father, and human being sometimes presents a perplexing intersection of emotions and rational responses. I am acutely aware that for two of our student-athletes, the season could not have been a bigger catastrophe. We have two young men who sacrificed sport for school, but even more importantly, two young men who suffered for their brothers in Christ. All they ever wanted was to compete together in their final basketball season. Boy did it go the opposite way.
Then I thought about the opposite way.... What is the opposite way?
St. Paul reveals a vision he received straight from Our Lord; he recounts his own passionate and personal reaction:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)
God cannot enter a soul that is too full of itself.
Does St. Paul suggest that any competitive endeavor is useless from a spiritual growth perspective? Why even exert the effort in something if we are meant to just take a beating? Is competition - the drive to assert self over others - good for human formation?
I found some answers from people much smarter than me (teaser - same link from above), which is par for the course. There is a nuance in how we ought to answer those tough questions above. It all comes down to a subtle contrast within our soul that if we remain inattentive to, we get stuck in a spiritually stagnant place. And what better occasion to shake ourselves out of a lukewarm faith than the season of Lent.
Here is what the contrast looks like: scrupulosity --- gratitude
Scrupulosity seeks perfection in all things, and disorders attention to self-effort. Gratitude affirms the reality of providence and supernatural support.
Do we live a life of effort or do we attend to the gifts received?
We should not idolize the drive for perfection, lest it become like these sequence of statements that can be made to a child who does not perform well academically or athletically: "You have to be the best. It is all about you. If it didn't work out, it must be because of your effort."
The spirit of comparison destroys.
Instead, our thinking should pivot on these sentiments: "You are so good. So are others. Work with others for the good of all."
Lent is in fact a time of supreme failure because everything we look forward to is built on the failure of Christ. This is the paradox of Christianity: Christ inverts reality to focus on the weakness of our human condition infused with divine grace.
All things are possible with God's grace, even when it seems not so. And I would add the right things are possible when we remain open to the truth of God's intervention in history, and the here and now. The good achieved in allowing God to take our weakness and make it into something we cannot fully appreciate now will turn into gratitude at a future time unbeknownst to us. We are meant to go in the right direction forward even when backwards appears desirable, because it is familiar.
This helped me make meaning of the aforementioned situation involving our two student-athletes in the basketball season. I hope it helps you make sense of this spiritual season and the frail beauty of our shared human experience.
Yours truly in Christ,