June 1, 2018

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Grace combined with will power make us winners in the race of life

Sean GallagherAs good as a driver as he was and as fast a car as he was driving, Will Power couldn’t make it by himself to Victory Lane at the end of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

Late in the race, he was in third place behind racers Jack Harvey and Stefan Wilson. But those two pitted with three laps to go to get enough fuel to finish the race.

They could have stayed on the track and tried to squeeze every last ounce of fuel out of their tanks like Alexander Rossi did in the 2016 Indy 500 on his way to victory.

But their crews determined that such a strategy wouldn’t work this time. So Will Power took the lead of the race simply because Harvey and Wilson left the race course to refuel.

Yes, he had driven a quick car throughout May, qualifying as the third fastest in the field. And he raced hard in the first 196 laps of the race, leading 59 of them. But, in the end, he took the lead because Harvey and Wilson pitted.

It was a grace, a gift given to Power that he had done nothing to earn.

How Will Power won his first Indianapolis 500 can help us understand how we all can make a reality the greatest desire of the human heart—to have eternal life in heaven with God.

We cannot achieve this ultimate fulfillment through our own, well, will power.

To believe this is part of a heresy called Pelagianism that the Church condemned 1,600 years ago. A monk named Pelagius who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries taught that the human will was not marred by original sin and that people were thus capable through their own will power (there’s that phrase again) of living a sinless life.

Up until May 27, Will Power the IndyCar race driver had had a career that would seemed to have qualified him for racing heaven.

He had won 34 races and qualified fastest 51 times, the latter coming in only behind racing legends Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt.

Power won the IndyCar season championship in 2014 and has finished second in the standings four times.

He would have seemed on his own to have earned a spot in the IndyCar racing pantheon. But he knew better. He hadn’t won the big one, the Indianapolis 500.

“In my career, I’ve had so many wins, so many poles,” said Power after his win at Indy. “But everyone always talks about the ‘500.’ And I finally won it.”

In his 10 Indy 500 starts before this year, Power had finished in the top 10 four times, including a second place finish in 2015, a tenth of a second behind that year’s winner, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Taking the checkered flag in this year’s Indy 500, with the help of Harvey and Wilson, vaulted Power into racing heaven.

“He’s in a different world now,” said Roger Penske, Power’s car owner.

And Penske should know, having now owned 17 cars that have won the famed race.

To think we can reach heaven through our own will power is itself a sign of the ongoing effects of original sin. After all, when Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the serpent, they did so out of pride, thinking that they were equal to God.

Add God’s grace to the power of your will, though, and that greatest desire of the human heart can become reality.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion.)

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