Sometimes, grace peeks through under the oddest circumstances.
Take Tuesday night’s Cardinals game, fer instance. The home-boys have had a rough start to their season, and that game against the Toronto Blue Jays was no exception: Indifferent offense and sloppy glovework turned it into an error-filled fumble fest—and yet another home loss, in 11 innings no less.
Grandson Francis, taking in his very first Major League Baseball game, was unimpressed.
But as other, unrelated events have unfolded this week, I have come to see the game—and Francis’ presence there—in a slightly different light. At seven months old, Francis can afford to take the long view. One day’s errors…one game’s mishaps…don’t make the team, or the season, or the franchise, irredeemable. [Heck, even the Cubs win a World Series every century or so…]
Still, disappointment has been weighing heavily on my spirit all week long. We learned on Monday that there’d been a violent incident at Menard…just a few days ahead of our scheduled retreat Weekend there. As a result, the whole prison has gone on lockdown—no visitors allowed. For a while, there was hope the lockdown would be lifted in time for us to go in next week, at least, on our make-up date. But word came yesterday that “Kairos Weekend #13” is officially cancelled.
Poof: Three months of formation for our 36 team members, up in smoke. Countless hours lovingly spent on posters and placemats and hand-written letters, now seemingly wasted. And cookies: The 17,000+ homemade cookies collected for our inmate participants, now re-directed to area food pantries and soup kitchens instead.
It’s hard…not to take it hard.
It’s hard to see the grace in these unfortunate circumstances. Hard to think about the men—and the Christ-joy we had in store for them, now put on hold for who-knows-how-many months. Hard to imagine how all the inmates and officers and staff now must suffer at that place, because of the violent actions of a few.
But grace comes, I noticed at Mass this morning, when we choose to take the long view.
We heard two stories along those lines today. The first, from the Acts of the Apostles, recounts how the early disciples were persecuted for preaching in Jesus’ name. Hauled before the Sanhedrin, they were jailed and flogged. [That fact alone tends to put a much different perspective on my ‘Kairos’ disappointment.] Then Gamaliel, a respected elder, says something interesting:
If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy [it]…
Then in the Gospel, St. John recounts how Jesus fed a crowd of more than 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish. Like a bunch of crestfallen Kairos team members, the apostles don’t hold out much hope ahead of the miracle. In fact, the prospect of failure seems to depress them: ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’
But taking the long view, we can see how the story ends: There’s more than enough to go around. Not only that, but Jesus puts the scraps to work.
‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’
Yes, even the scraps…and the failures…and the cancellations…can be the stuff of miracles in the Master’s hands.
So especially in our disappointments, we pray: Lord, give us eyes to see!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.