A week ago, I had a really good feeling about my favorite college basketball team – the SLU Billikens.
The Bills had been coming on strong in the last half of the season, and topped things off with a convincing “home” win last Saturday against a very capable team.
The “W” was their 23rd of the season – good enough to earn SLU a “double-bye” in the A10 Tournament this week: Just three more wins (or maybe only two), and they’d secure a spot in the Big Dance for the second consecutive year.
I suspect your eyes are starting to glaze over right about now. I know for a fact that I spend a lot more time, energy and brainpower on various college basketball scores (and standings) than is reasonable for any well-adjusted adult.
But what can I say? “I just can’t hep myself” – not during March Madness, anyway. It’s a veritable feast of hoops: 68 teams, all going toe-to-toe for the top spot…over the course of a three-week basketball blitzkrieg.
It’s one of my favorite rites of spring. Ranks right up there with Holy Week and Easter, in fact…at least in terms of the time and mental capacity I devote to such annual rituals.
This year, though, the whole hardcourt shebang has been cancelled due to the pandemic. So you could say that my hoops obsession has itself been given a “double-bye”.
“Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.”
Over the past 48 hours or so, I’ve been working hard to adjust to this reality – this “hard-stop” in a springtime pattern that stretches back at least 38 years in my case.
~ No brackets to fill out.
~ No complaining about the inevitable indignities visited upon the Billikens (or other mid-majors) by the powers-that-be in the NCAA.
~ No buzzer-beaters. No Cinderellas. No Sweet 16s, Elite 8s or Final Fours.
At some point I realized that I might actually be experiencing withdrawal symptoms this year. My springtime basketball addiction was NOT going to be fed. COULD not be fed.
It was about then that I began to sense the blessing in this COVID-19-induced “double-bye.”
Kind of like the “woman at the well” we meet in Sunday’s gospel, I am being given a chance to take a break from the patterns that often govern my daily and seasonal routines. I am being invited to perhaps take a sip from an entirely different cistern in 2020.
That might mean something practical, like asking “Is there someone I know who needs me to do some grocery shopping for them – to reduce their exposure to the virus?’
Or there might even be bigger fish to fry – like overhauling my entire notion of Divine Providence:
“Can I learn to see – in every circumstance – an opportunity to trust more?
And: Confident in God’s care for me…for all of us…can I act in a way that dispels fear, rather than feeding into it today?”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.