Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spiritual Role Models: What Would Jorge Do?

Good Friday is hard for me.  But that's ok, it's supposed to be hard. What I wasn't expecting was the challenge that Holy Saturday brought.  A royal holding pattern, I felt awash is confusion and doubt.  Jesus has suffered and died.  He was hung on a cross one day prior.  Yet the day after, there is a general silence--a vapid void.  I decided to stay with that malaise and hold on for the impending joy of Easter.

Perhaps the difficulty in navigating the waters of Holy Saturday is because no one has directed us on what we ought to do or how we should be.  When I don't know the moral way, a helpful question I ask myself is What would Jesus do? But, today these words found their limit.  Jesus' descent to the dead confounds me.  However, with Pope Francis in the Holy See, I believe I found an answer. What would Jorge do? If you have followed this humble servant, you know exactly what he would do--he would pray and he would serve the poor.

I know I needed his example (and was grateful for it) as I rolled out of my bed on Good Friday at 6:00 a.m. to work at Martin de Porres a soup kitchen.  It's funny because the regret I felt as I turned off my alarm wasn't that it was early in the day, but that I would miss my 6:30 a.m. Body Pump (weight training) class.  Physical discipline isn't something I struggle to maintain.  My spiritual discipline however needs to get back in shape.
Pope Francis is an appealing role model for spiritual discipline because he makes it look easy.  In the same way that the best crew makes rowing look smooth, balanced and effortless, Jorge makes doing simple things for the poor, a natural if not appealing choice.
And the reality is something much different.  Working with the poor isn't necessarily fun or easy.  On Friday, folks were particularly ornery.  Because it was close to the end of the month, when most SSI checks have been cashed out, patience runs low and tempers flair high.  One woman yelled non-stop about how much pain she was in.  It was hard to hear.  But just because it's difficult, doesn't mean its unimportant.  Jorge and Jesus have confirmed this with their words and their actions.

As Bono notes in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

I think working with the poor may be one of the most important spiritual disciplines period.  We know we are supposed to care for the poor, but actually going out and doing it is another matter.  So I am grateful for Pope Francis as a spiritual role model.  I want to become a better Christian, and I think working with the poor and committing myself to other spiritual disciplines--like prayer and silence is the way to increase my faith.
This approach has certainly worked for me in the past.  For example, I became a better athlete when I became a coach.  As a visual learner, I need examples of how to execute, what it looks like to work hard--to pull hard, to train hard, the compete hard.  I am talking really hard.  Several athletes color my memory.  

Al Bannis took every erg test without fear.  I've never seen a rower approach the erg like Al Bannis.  If an inanimate object could feel fear, I think it should be the rowing machine that was assigned to her 2000 meter erg test.  Or when I need to picture commitment to excellence, grit and determination, Caitlin DeBarbarie comes to mind.  Not once did I need to check on Caitlin to determine if she completed her push-ups or held a plank for a minute, for a minute and a half, or for two minutes.  Even today, when I struggle to build my core, I think back to Caitlin and her discipline.  

I am grateful for these athletes and countless others, because I saw the fruit of their labor.  Their teams were stronger, their peers had an understanding of what their coaches were asking for and these athletes inspired others to bring their best.  Not everyone was as competitive as Al, but she sure made it easier to see that maybe we could.

Today, I work out primarily on my own.  As an adult, save from a few leagues I have played in or friends I have trained with, we are our own sources of discipline, commitment and support.  If I don't show up at the gym this week, guess who notices?  Guess who holds me accountable? One person and one person only--me.  But that is not my struggle.  Getting to the gym or finding time to workout isn't a challenge for me.  It's so integrated into my life and such a given priority that I can't imagine another way.

Spiritual discipline however, is another story.  Certain commitments are non-negotiable, I have a community of faith, but the part that is of my own accord needs more discipline, more effort and practice.  I'm grateful for the role models who are doing the heavy lifting and giving what they have--their time, their hearts, their lives.  Sounds like the recipe for a good workout.

Photo Credits
Pope Francis washes feet

Balanced Crew
Christ thinking of the poor
Holy Saturday icon

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