As a member of the Catholic church for 41+ years (i.e., my entire life) I have heard a lot of homilies over the years. Most of them--until I met Father Sam-had been delivered in a pretty bland way. Father Sam is not a bland person. I don't know that he has ever given a bland homily. His Easter Sunday homily in 2011 was certainly not bland. He was "on fire". If there isn't a Holy Spirit, then he definitely had something burning within him. Even with a somewhat hoarse voice after a busy weekend of services. His call to action was incredible. His main message--to those who attended every week just as much as to those who tend to attend only at Christmas and Easter--what next? So you have proclaimed that you believe that God sent Jesus who died in sacrifice and was raised to conquer death. So what? What next? How will it change what you do with the rest of your life?
That is an apt question for us all. As I stood with my bass as part of the worship band (much to the surprise of two former students who happened to be visiting my parish that day!) I wondered how I'd answer the question. The answer was actually somewhat obvious--continue to follow the path of living my life and sharing aspects of my life with others to improve everyone's life. Be willing to sacrifice. Be willing to make a difference. I've written about "living a prayer". It is so different from "Living on a Prayer" that Bon Jovi sang about so many years ago and most kids in listening to the radio 25+ year ago could have sung along with every word. Life is not about "hanging onto a prayer" but "living it out". LIving out every action. Living out every thought. Living out every shared experience in the name of making the world a better place for everyone on it.
How does that relate to my running? I believe that God gave me the gift of loving to run for a reason. Yes, my speed in high school was enough to win one or two races and otherwise do well. Yes, my speed now is enough to run nearer the front of the pack than the back of the pack in almost every race I run. But what will my running mean five, ten, or twenty years from now? I hope to continue to run with Back on My Feet--that will mean something. I hope to continue to run with my sons for a while o come--that will mean something. And, I hope to have the opportunity to be a mentor to others--younger or older--as well as occasionally to be mentored by others sharing life's lessons as we run. Using running to make the world a better place. A way to protect what God has given me as well as to help make others' lives better.
And finally, my career. I have discussed with at least one other person relatively recently promoted to full professor the concept of "what next"? We've had our final promotions. What do we do now. The answer, "How do you really want to make a difference?" My answer is through teaching. I have realized that in two big ways in the past four months--my Dean's lecher and the announcement that I will receive two Golden Apples this year (apparently the first time anyone has been chosen twice by students in the same year). Yes, I still have to do research and fulfill other aspects of my position. But, the teaching and mentoring is a big aspect and I will use that to make the world a better place for a small number who, I hope, will go out and help to make the world a better place by, as the school slogan says, saving lives millions at a time.
What's next? In some ways, it is just more of the same. In other ways, I can only imagine. But I do feel blessed to be able to answer the call with (to quote what used to be considered a modern song) "Here I am, Lord" and to move forward confident that I am doing God's bidding to help others in this world. Not always confident that I am doing what is absolutely right. But confident that I am aware of what the call is and that it needs to be taken seriously.