Few things are more tiresome than a golf story to a non-enthusiast. Unless it’s a fish story.
But at the risk of losing you, I think I’m going to forge ahead with a timely tale from the golf links. Yesterday was ‘opening day’ in my weekly golf league, you see. And it turned into something a bit more than a typical round for me – precisely because it was so typical.
Not unlike Peter and the apostles, in today’s gospel reading: A week or two after their first encounter with the resurrected Lord, they decide to head back to the boat. ‘I’m going fishing,’ Peter tells the group. And the others are only too eager to join him in doing what they already know how to do.
It doesn’t turn out well, of course. They fish all night and catch nothing, despite the deep experience they bring to the task.
Which is kinda like my first round of the new league season yesterday. I’ve been playing long enough to know that I shouldn’t expect miracles. On my best days, I’m a bogey golfer. On the first day of the season – not having swung a club for six months – I fully expected a few rough edges to my game. And all in all, things turned out relatively well: I carded a par, a few bogeys, a few ‘others’…and managed to stay even with (or perhaps even slightly ahead of) my opponent for the day.
Then came the 8th – the second-to-last hole in our 9-hole match. I was on the green with a chance for par. Four putts later, I had squandered my chance for victory – and slipped into a miserable hole of golf despair.
The four-putt was bad enough (I can just imagine the golfers among you shuddering at the very thought. And I certainly hope it’s not contagious…) But the thing that seemed to bear further reflection was my attitude, my mind-set, as I stood over the third putt.
It was all too familiar: I’d been there before, on far too many summer afternoons – standing over a shot that I knew could make all the difference in the round. And I’d hear a voice from somewhere deep inside, accusing me: ‘You know you’re going to blow it: You miserable, pathetic fool.’ Soon enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The putt swings wide right…and I am swallowed up (if even only for a moment) in the blackness of defeat.
It’s hard to recognize the risen Lord when I encounter such failures – on the course, or elsewhere – in my life. In fact, I typically feel quite alone, completely isolated in my misery.
And yet, isn’t there a promise of something more in that fishing story from shores of the Sea of Galilee today?
You are there, aren’t you, Lord? You are with me, even in my moments of failure. You offer to redeem them. Transform them. My failures can become your triumph, if I will simply open my eyes to your presence – and listen for your voice, instead of the all-too-familiar refrain leading to ruin. Help me to see and hear you, dear Lord. Make your presence known, even in the most ordinary events of this day. Amen!