May 22 reflection by Deacon Len

Friday, 6th week of Easter 05/22/20

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052220.cfm

You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

I coached swimming for over 30 years.  I have coached athletes of all levels from six year-olds trying to make it across the pool without stopping to an Olympic gold medalist.  There is great joy in seeing these athletes work toward and accomplish their goals.  I take no credit for their accomplishments, because I can’t make them successful.  My role was to remind them of their individual goals and guide them toward what it takes to get there.

To me it was always important that the athletes focused on their own desires and goals, not what their parents, friends or coaches wanted for them.  This is important because it’s not always easy and fun.  Sometimes it’s difficult, unpopular, painful, frustrating, lonely, uncertain and often discouraging.  Often it would be much easier to chuck it all away and go with the popular crowd to whatever fad or current event was all the rage.

And when times are tough, you might be able to hang in there if this is what YOU truly want.  But, if you are doing this because someone else thinks you should, FORGET IT!

I watched athletes give up sugary treats and beverages, Friday night football games, Homecoming events, dances, family vacations, sleep overs and a host of other inviting activities so as not to interrupt their preparation for that peak athletic performance that might be weeks or months into the future.  Athletes often wonder if it’s all worth it or if they can continue to endure.  

That’s when I need remind them that this is something THEY wanted.  No one can make them do it and no one can do it for them.  It’s truly up to them.  Only the athletes who truly believed, and understood it was up to them to succeed or fail could withstand the temptation to make an exception.

But then, one day it happens: The end of the season comes and that great swim or swims that they sacrificed and worked so hard for happens.  That experience and the joy that is the result of all of the sacrifice and hard work is finally worth it.  I wonder if the success would be so sweet without all of the sacrifice, the struggle and the difficulty.  Would there be joy if it was easy?  I would say no.  Why?  Because everyone would be doing it.  If it was easy, everyone would be an elite athlete, maybe even an Olympian.  There would be no glory in success.  It would be casual and boring.

This is the message of our recent Gospel readings.  Yes, it’s difficult and that’s what makes it worth it.  Nothing worthwhile comes easy.  Nothing that gives us great satisfaction comes without great sacrifice and suffering.

During the past few weeks our daily Gospel readings have been predominantly from The Gospel of John.  These Easter season readings are meant to encourage us and remind us to focus our attention on the Resurrection and the next life, not on the worries and stresses of THIS life.  The Lord, being a good coach knows it’s difficult and sometimes it feels like more than we can handle, but He wants us to keep our eyes on the big prize.

If we go back two weeks, we were in chapter 14, “Do not let your heart be troubled.”  Last week in chapter 15 we were told, “Love one another as I love you.”  This week in chapter 16 the message changes a little, “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”  This is to remind us that just like the athlete, it’s not always easy and fun.  No, it’s unpopular, painful, frustrating, lonely, uncertain and often discouraging.  But our focus, just like that of the athlete, is on the end prize when our grief will become joy.  The struggle is real, but so is Heaven.  When the path seems too difficult or the load is too great, it is then that we should know that it will all be worth it.

Let’s take time today to pray for each other.  Let’s pray for Fr. Jeremiah as he moves on to a new ministry and thank the Lord for his service to St. Raphael.  Let’s pray for Fr. John as he prepares to move to a new assignment, and thank the Lord for all Fr. John has given to us.  Let’s pray for Fr. Dan as he leads us through the process of returning to our celebrations in the church.  And let us give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!

Deacon Len

lpenkala@st-raphael.com