The calendar says ‘spring,’ but you couldn’t prove it by the hue of the fairways as we opened the golf season this past week. The zoysia turf, still sporting a winter tint, made our league’s ‘home course’ resemble the Sahara more closely than Augusta during our first week of play.
As for my game: You could accurately color it ‘rusty’ because I hadn’t swung a club in months. But not to worry: Lack of practice typically provides a built-in alibi, should my shot-making not quite measure up to expectations.
A funny thing happened as we headed into the penultimate hole of the round, however: I actually found myself clinging to a slim lead. No sooner did I note this unexpected bounty than my opponent (himself, showing some telltale signs of swing-oxidation) plunked his drive into the furze just beyond the tee-box. In contrast, I deposited mine safely in the middle of the fairway.
I hate it when that sort of thought occurs to me on the golf course, mostly because I know what all-too-often happens next. I start thinking. I think about ‘winning.’ I think about ‘not-losing.’ I think about past meltdowns. I think about future achievements. Dozens of scenarios begin coursing through my cortex, none of them intimately connected to the present reality.
In short, when I begin to think…I start to lose touch.
Sure enough, two flubbed shots frittered away my temporary advantage on that hole…and led to a tie. Fuming at the outcome, I floozled my next drive…flailed away twice more in the gorse…and wound up quadruple-bogeying the final hole. An impressive flame-out, I suppose—as long as you’re not the one being seared or singed.
But as much as I would have enjoyed winning that opening match of the season, I find I am intrigued by its timing—occurring, as it did, within days of the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday.
On this day, we hear from Thomas…whose famous refrain makes him something of a spiritual twin for me on the golf course: ‘I will not believe,’ he says to his fellow disciples.
In his case, the companions have just shared some remarkable news: Jesus is risen, they say. He has conquered the grave. He has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Thomas is having none of it though. He thinks for a bit about what they say, and perhaps not unreasonably concludes, ‘I will not believe.’
What turns the tide for Thomas?
I notice that it is not, ultimately, a head-game. He cannot think his way to grace, to redemption, to salvation. He has to touch. He has to be in the moment, stay in the moment, sink his fingers and hands into the Risen One, the blessed reality right before his eyes.
Jesus seems to understand this about Thomas (and about all of us). He doesn’t reproach the disciple for doubting. Rather, he asks Thomas to enter in and touch His woundedness. He invites Thomas to move from his head…to his heart. He shows Thomas how to make the journey we each must make…every time we extend or receive mercy.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.