A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the animation movie “The Good Dinosaur.” In the scene I consider its spiritual climax, the main character, Arlo, is faced with the choice to overcome his fears to save his friend Spot. He encounters his departed dad in a dream in which he tells Arlo what he always says to encourage him: “You are me and more.”
All of us have these core inspiration moments in life. Sometimes we are immediately moved by such moments; other times they call our attention, but we let them pass. Whatever our response, they are real moments of grace.
Today’s Gospel gives us an assurance that these will come to fruition. As the Lord promises his friends, “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
God’s spirit and grace are always available to us, but seasons of grace like Easter are reminders to help us remember, and in remembering, hopefully, relive the grace.
In an apocryphal account of Peter’s death, it was said that at the height of Emperor Nero’s persecutions of the early church in Rome, Peter initially fled. One night, as he rested, he encountered Christ in a dream.
In the dream, Peter meets Christ making his way to Rome. Peter asks him, “Lord, where are you going?” In so many words, Peter is telling Christ, “Lord, you are going the wrong way; we’ll get creamed there!”
Then Christ tells Peter, “To Rome, Peter, to be crucified again.” Peter wakes up from his dream weeping, gets up, makes his way back to Rome where he meets a martyr’s death by crucifixion. His following of Christ is completed.
The core inspiration moments that define our life and mission are, once and for all and through time, with the accompaniment of the Spirit of the Risen Lord.
This is the promise of the Risen Lord in today’s Gospel. He will send us the grace, his Spirit to “teach” us and to help us “remember.”
Twenty-two years ago I had a core inspiration moment. A young freshman in Harvard, Joe, visited in New York. I was then in my final semester preparing to work as principal. Joe was one of my students in Jesuit High School, Portland the previous school year.
As we were walking along Central Park, Joe told me two things as he reflected on and discussed his path for his future. Choosing between becoming a lawyer and a doctor, he paused twice in the middle of his analysis.
First, he said, it doesn’t matter what he ends up. “I can live in a farm, for all I care, so long as I have a happy family.” Then, a few minutes later he added, “Whatever it takes to make me a more loving person.”
This taught me about and re-connected me to my being a teacher. Fourteen years earlier, I had the first core inspiration moment when I realized that I wanted to be a teacher to help young people heal, make meaning out of their life and commit to and live out their mission.
Then I said “yes” to this mission. I knew and lived the pain of not having an adult to mentor me on this. When the core inspiration moment came, I was able to say “yes” because of my woundedness. The “yes” was my healing; living a life of mission is my healing. This set me off on my journey.
Loving others into excellence
Fast forward to this core inspiration moment in Central Park. It made clearer and more deeply defined my being a teacher. It was to love students, others into excellence that they too may become more loving persons.
Armed with this core inspiration moment, the following year I went back to the Ateneo to become principal.
In my very first meeting with the faculty, I told them that as principal my main job was to love them, our teachers, into excellence that they in turn will love our students into excellence.