We interrupt this ‘spirituality blog’ for a sports report: SLU Billikens win! SLU Billikens win!
For anyone whose passion for college basketball may not reach a religious fervor, allow me to explain: It’s ‘March Madness’ time…the point in the season when you either win, or go home. And last night, my beloved Billikens were down 16 points with just 8 minutes to play…before staging a furious rally to post an improbable victory.
It turned into a God-moment for me…but one that I didn’t fully appreciate until the light of day.
It wasn’t the win, so much as the way the Billikens won. There was no real reason to expect the comeback. SLU’s best players were clanking shots from everywhere on the court – and in particular, from the free-throw line. They were throwing the ball away on offense. And their vaunted defense often seemed suspect against the Wolfpack’s scoring star.
Nothing seemed to be going right last night. And yet, the Billikens refused to give up. They kept playing…hard. Kept giving it their maximum effort. Kept hoping against hope that things would finally click.
Which, I realized this morning, is very much like the image of God that Jesus paints for us in the Gospel story at Mass today. Jesus tells the story of the landowner who planted a vineyard…and entrusted its fruitfulness to tenants. But the story takes a nasty turn at harvest time…
…He sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
If you think about it, there’s no good reason for the landowner in the parable to have taken steps ‘two’ and ‘three’ in the effort to collect the fruits of his harvest. In fact, the crowd listening to the story immediately recognizes the futility of appealing to the tenants’ hardened hearts. ‘He [should] put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants,’ they say.
But there’s something unreasonable about God’s heart, it seems. It simply won’t admit defeat. No matter how dire the circumstances…no matter how often God has been burned by our ineptitude or recalcitrance…the Holy One keeps calling to us. He keeps trying to mount a comeback.
No matter what the cost, God will not let us go. March Madness, indeed!
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.