June 2, 2017

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Get pointed in the right direction on the journey to heaven

Sean GallagherVictory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is like heaven for drivers in the famed Indianapolis 500.

In 2012, IndyCar driver Takuma Sato tried to make it there with a daring pass attempt in the first turn of the final lap of the race. But his car and that of leader Dario Franchitti touched, causing Sato’s car to spin and crash into the first turn wall.

Sato could have played it safe and finished a respectable—but ultimately forgettable—second. But he said later, “I was going for the win.” He wanted to get to IndyCar heaven.

In the next four editions of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Sato went off course in his journey to Victory Lane, finishing 13th twice, 19th and 26th.

In the 101st running of the Indy 500 on May 28, Sato made another daring pass for the lead with five laps to go, getting by leader Helio Castroneves just before the entrance to turn one.

Over the next three laps, Sato held off the hard-charging three-time 500 winner, ultimately finishing two tenths of a second ahead of Castroneves.

After his victory, Sato was asked what the difference was between his performance this year and in 2012. “This time, I was pointing in the right direction in turn one,” he said with a laugh.

Each of us can make wrong turns on our own journey to heaven. In fact, we can make many of them.

We can let bad choices become ingrained bad habits. We can let difficulties in relationships turn into long‑held grudges and deep ruptures. We can give in to attractions of the material world, and become lukewarm at best in our life of faith.

As each of these tendencies become more an ordinary part of our lives, it can seem more difficult for us to change them and build up a life of virtue in their place. We might even give in to the ultimate temptation of the devil and embrace a polite kind of despair, an everyday kind of hopelessness.

This is just the way I am, we might say to ourselves again and again in the back our minds, why try to change?

But in each moment of each day, God gives us a chance for victory. His ever‑present grace can help us make choices to be like Takuma Sato, pointed in the right direction on our journey of faith.

Sato didn’t give up hope after his attempt to win in 2012 ended with him sitting in a mangled car, watching the winner Franchitti go past him on his victory lap. He didn’t give up hope as he finished in the middle to the back of the pack in the next four races.

His determined hope finally paid off when he entered Victory Lane on Sunday.

In our daily chances for victory, each of us will make wrong choices at times and get pointed in the wrong direction. But God’s mercy, especially available to us in the sacrament of penance, can always get us back on course toward heaven.

God also wants his mercy to flow through each of us to each other. When we forgive each other with the help of grace, we make this journey to heaven together.

Victory Lane, heaven for IndyCar drivers, only admits one driver each year. Thankfully, the real heaven is big enough for all humanity. God doesn’t want us to try to get there on our own. He wants us to bring as many people with us as we can.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: