Nine fifth grade boys in Clark, New Jersey stood up and spoke. They’ve been playing on the same CYO basketball team with two girls, who were recently told that diocesan rules don’t allow boys and girls to play on the same team. Given the choice between forfeiting their season and playing without the girls, the boys stood up and spoke, saying that they would rather not play than play without their teammates.
Faced with this courageous stand, the archbishop, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, did an equally courageous thing – he sat down and listened. The girls are playing, two cancelled games were rescheduled, and the team is in the playoffs. The boys set aside their privilege to stand on the margins against an injustice. In doing so, they caused someone with immense power to use his privilege to correct that injustice. Both are acts of courage.
It’s not always our inclination to sit down and listen. It’s never easy to admit we’re wrong. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge our place in causing or sustaining an injustice. When we stand up and speak we might feel a sense of purpose and determination. When we sit down and listen we expose ourselves to having our sense of purpose called into question. Both require us to, as least to some degree, set ourselves aside. Both are acts of courage.
Lent is a time when we’re called to die to self. That means setting aside our privilege and power. It means calling into question all that we know. It can mean standing up and speaking, and it can mean sitting down and listening. Dying to self is how we experience the fullness of life, as we live into a deeper relationship with Christ.
Peace for the journey,