Sewing Hope Into Broken Hearts
March 21, 2017

The Successful Failure

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize Jesus Christ is in you? - unless, of course, you fail the test. I hope you will discover we have not failed. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

“Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here” were the words of command module pilot John Swigert aboard the space shuttle Apollo 13  when an oxygen tank exploded during their mission to the moon on April 13, 1970. The in-flight explosion resulted in abandoning the planned trip to the moon and instead getting home alive. In the minutes, hours and days that followed, the circumstance of relying on a spaceship for life-support that was on life-support itself tested, challenged and demonstrated the ingenuity and perseverance of a team determined not to be defeated by the disaster. If you’ve watched the popular 1995 film you’ve got an idea about how NASA engineers and scientists helped the trio of astronauts beat the odds and make it home safely, albeit with a little creative license from Hollywood in parts.

The Apollo 13 mission has been popularly termed the successful failure because they made it back to earth alive while never accomplishing their intended goals. This name suits the mission so well perhaps because everyone involved focused only on the essentials of sustaining life and returning home. Food was rationed, water was conserved and power was reduced to only what was necessary to achieve a success that was continually juxtaposed with the reality of a recent failure; a failure that lingered over each member of the team and elevated every decision to a matter of life and death for three men floating two hundred thousand miles from home.

Living the Catholic faith in the present state of the world like landing on the moon is a difficult and daunting task. It seems that just to get off the launch pad is a huge accomplishment these days, and after we do lift off…we know that to shoot for the moon in our spiritual lives means entering a weightless vacuum of endless uncertainty. But we are not alone. Like the crew of Apollo 13, when tragedy strikes we turn to mission control. Our Triune God is the all-powerful team that will never fail us, and listening to Him will always get us home.

Have you experienced an Apollo 13 moment during this penitential season of Lent? Did you start out with great intentions on Ash Wednesday but now are coping with the effects of a midflight malfunction? If you’ve realized that your Lenten disciplines are dissipating into space; reevaluate and refocus the mission.

You may feel like there are two hundred thousand miles between your Lenten goals and you right now, but there is still time to return to the basics and achieve spiritual growth. If you concentrate on the essentials of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll find the path that leads home. Here are a few suggestions for simplifying the remainder of Lent. First, set aside a time of dedicated prayer each day, start with just fifteen minutes. Pick one day a week and fast from a favorite food or activity on that day. Finally, find a way to help the poor either materially or spiritually, assist at a local food pantry or homeless shelter or donate to a Catholic service organization. Devoting yourself to the basic three pillars of Lent isn’t necessarily easy, but if you do you will be a successful failure; arriving home safely having grown in your relationship with Christ.