Lessons from the Lunar Landing
[The following homily was given at the opening all-school Mass at Hayden High School in Topeka. It represents a summary of three talks given the they Hayden faculty retreat on August 10th. Those talks can be found at the following links:]
This summer we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first landing of man on the moon. As we recall this event, there are 3 lessons that provide helpful insights as we begin a new school year. First, the entire mission to the moon would have never happened without the vision and leadership of President John F. Kennedy. He set the goal of landing on the moon by the end of 1969 and this goal gave direction to every decision made. We too need to have clear goals. We will never arrive at where we need to be if we don’t have a clear picture of where we’re going.
Secondly, we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. It took many many failures along the path that eventually led to the lunar landing. The rocket scientists had to watch rocket after rocket explode right in front of them in a great ball of fire. Yet, they learned from their mistakes and didn’t quit. How many times do we give up because we fail? Perhaps our biggest failure is that we never set challenging goals because we’re too afraid we might not reach them. Kennedy’s goal was a very challenging one and lots of people could have given up but didn’t. We need to have the courage to “fail well” as we risk achieving great things.
Finally, there is an important lesson to be learned from the mission of Apollo 8. This was the first time we ever flew away from the earth and went to the moon. We didn’t land of course, but we discovered something very important. The astronauts had trained very hard to learn everything they could about the moon. They had planned every moment of their trip with countless checklists, including every picture they would take. However, they found themselves completely unprepared for the surprise that awaited them when they got to the moon. As they came around the dark side of the moon and into daylight they saw something unexpected…the earth. They had to scramble to find their cameras to take the unexpected prize pictures. Astronaut Bill Anders remarked that they had concentrated all their training on learning about the moon and yet, when they got there, the most important thing they discovered was the earth. In the midst of all our plans and goals, don’t be surprised if God gets in there and throws in a few unexpected wrinkles. This is good. There are lots of things to learn this year, but don’t be surprised if along the way you learn a few things you hadn’t planned on…and those just might turn out to be the most important.