Forty-five minutes into the meeting, I was begging under my breath to be set free.
And this, mind you, at a gathering to discuss golf – one of my favorite past-times in life. The setting: Our summer league’s annual “mid-winter meeting,” scheduled to give members a chance to review and revise the by-laws that govern our matches during the warm weather months.
Alas, consensus is difficult to achieve, even when those engaged in the discussion for most part enjoy each other’s company…and share a common goal – to have a little fun out on the course.
But ah, there’s the rub! Each member’s definition of “fun” differs slightly from the rest. So every seemingly innocuous rule-change can catalyze a noxious and time-consuming brew of comments and counter-comments. Before you know it, a quarter-hour has slipped past – with still many more agenda items on tap to be discussed.
I was reminded of our recent Golf League gathering when I encountered this Sunday’s second reading. In it, Paul is exhorting (if not chiding) the community at Corinth:
…all of you [should] agree in what you say…there [should] be no divisions among you, but…be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
Point taken, St. Paul: If even a church gathering has trouble uniting around the same purpose, there’s probably not much hope for a golf league to achieve unanimity. Factions are only natural in sports. You can’t have any sort of “competition” without them.
But as I reflected a bit more deeply on my experience of the Golf League through the years, I came to see that its “community” is (for me, at least) a far deeper blessing than the “competition” it provides. Even amid our at-times testy dialogue this past week, for example, we were able to celebrate – as one – the memory of the hole-in-one carded by a League member last summer.
This week’s Gospel underscored the “community” blessing for me. In the passage from Matthew, we hear how Jesus called a number of his early disciples by name: first, Peter and his brother Andrew; and then James and John.
As I imagined the scene – what it must have felt like, to have one’s name spoken aloud by Jesus – I was reminded of the kindness extended to me in my first week or two in the League, some 20 years ago now. One “league veteran” in particular made it a point to welcome me, and call me by name.
A simple thing, perhaps…but it turned out to be incredibly important for me, personally. For both of us, in fact. That thoughtful “veteran” has since become one of my best friends in life. We have often remarked through the years how we see and hear Christ in each other.
Rather remarkable, isn’t it? Jesus seems to know how we desire to be known. And so when Jesus comes to us in the ordinary settings, our everyday moments by the lake or on the course – he makes it a point to call us each by name.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.