Saturday, March 29, 2014


Settling for C-

This past Tuesday, on the feast of the Annunciation, we read St. Luke's account of the angel Gabriel's announcing to Mary that she had been specially chosen by God to be the mother of the Savior, and heard Mary giving her complete assent to whatever God wanted of her: "Let it be done as you have said."  At our daily "convocation" that day all 550 of our students listened to that reading together. After the reading was finished  there was the usual invitation to students or staff to comment on how the reading may have touched them.

A couple of students stood up and did short spontaneous reflections; then a sophomore grabbed the microphone and our attention. In
a confident but pleasant voice he said (these are his ideas if not his exact words) "I noticed that when Mary said 'yes' to God she was not holding back. She sort of threw herself into it, she committed herself to God's will all the way. That's a hard thing to do. I notice that a lot of students in this room don't do that with their studies. They just do enough to get by and don't really give it their best. They're satisifed with getting a C- in every class. We need to learn something from Mary's kind of commitment. I mean, some of you guys who are happy with a C- will go to a C- college, and get a C- job, and have a C- relationsip with your family, and have a C- life!."

I long ago stopped marvelling at what some kids will say to 550 peers at morning convocation, but this little reflection struck me as both well put and very insightful.

Do you Have a Passion?

I made a student come back after school yesterday to explain why he has been missing so many homework assignments. He's a reasonably bright guy, he just goes on these homework strikes every couple of weeks. In the course of our discussion I asked him "What are your grades like?" He answered, "They're good." I followed up with "What do you mean by 'good'"? He answered "All B's." Then I stared at him and said, "Is that your best?" He answered immediately "No!"

Then we got into this discussion about committing yourself to whatever the task at hand might be, and not being satisfied with "good" when you could be "excellent" or even "great." I asked if there was anything at all that he was passionate about -- you know, like soccer or collecting comic books. As I expected, he couldn't think of a thing that he was really passionate about.

But now I had him intrigued -- sophomores love philosophical questions. He asked "What happens if you're not passionate about anything? Is that bad?" We spent the next twenty minutes discussing various answers. He (not I) suggested the disticntion between "living" and just "existing." I don't know what effect our conversation had on him, but I know that it at least got him thinking. The two of us shook hands and locked up the classroom.

C- in "Love of God?"

Still thinking about "a C- life" and about how we settle for an un-passionate existence instead of living a "life," I headed to my room to finish my homily for that afternoon's community mass. I picked up the day's gospel passage and these words (Mk 12:29) jumped right out at me:
You shall love the Lord your God 
with all your heart, 
with all your soul, 
with all your mind, 
and with all your strength.

The whole week came together. The voice of the student Tuesday morning who had  warned us of winding up with a "C-life," and the sophomore on Friday after school who wondered about the importance of being passionate, of "living" reather than "existing" both echoed in the words of the great commandment that demands that we love God with everything we have, every part of our being. Now the finger of the Gospel was pointing right at me.

How passionate am I about my commitment to the Lord? 
About my prayer? About guarding my thoughts? 
About putting others first instead of myself? 
Am I satisfied with a "B" when God's grace has made me quite capable of an "A"? 

As all of us continue our Lenten journey, as we hear the Lord's voice continually challenging us to repent, to transform our lives, we are also given the image of a passionate God who invites us to imitate that passion. If you wonder if God is passionate, take a good look at a crucifix and reflect on the connection between being passionate and Christ's passion and death.

I pray that the Lord will help me to learn from those two sophomores and help me to accept the challenges that their words have put before me this week. I know that God's love for me is passionate and boundless; I hope I can respond to that love with my own boundless passionate commitment. May God preserve all of us all from a "C- life" in Christ!  

1 comment:

  1. Brother Thomas AquinasMarch 29, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    What distinction did this student make between "living" and "existing?" I would be interested in hearing that.