In my homily for the First Sunday of Lent I preached that what ought to motivate us in our spiritual disciplines is our desire for God. But this prompts a question, "What about when I desire something, or even someone, more than I desire God?" We'd all be less than honest if we did not acknowledge that this is sometimes true. Sometimes it is very often true. One of the best definitions of sin is to desire something/someone more than we desire God. While ruminating on lack of desire for God, a passage from Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes came to mind, the part where he describes the experience of losing his virginity while he was working as a messenger boy. While doing his job he came to know a girl by the name of Theresa Carmody who was consumptive (she later dies). McCourt, describing what went through his head as he entered the throes of passion, wrote, "my head is filled with sin and iodine and fear of consumption and the shilling tip and her green eyes and she’s on the sofa don’t stop or I’ll die and she’s crying and I’m crying for I don’t know what’s happening to me if I’m killing myself catching consumption from her mouth I’m riding to heaven I’m falling off a cliff and if this is a sin I don’t give a fiddler’s fart." Let's face it, sometimes we don't give a fiddler's fart either, it is a spiritual state. It's precisely in the struggle, even in our giving in, that Christ comes to meet us.
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:24-27)Artists struggle with their art. There is no great work of art that is not the result of an agon, a struggle. As the title of the film about the life Michelangelo puts it, "the agony and the ecstasy." It was Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who urged us to make of our lives something beautiful for God. If Dostoevesky was correct, then beauty will only save the world because beauty entails struggle.
In the end, it is not our own exertions that will win the race, but Christ's love and fidelity, which can't truly be grasped in any other way except through experience, all experience, nothing remaindered. The philosopher Martin Heidegger was convinced that we experience something very important in and through boredom. I also preached that engaging in the struggle helps us to grasp our weakness, our great need, which creates the condition for us to experience for ourselves that Jesus is the joy of human desiring.