I’m told that a football game of some significance will be played today.
An ironic observation, given the demonstrable fact that a football game is of utterly no significance whatsoever.
It’s a game, after all. A diversion. An amusement.
Only I know – from my own heart – that we tend to take our games far too seriously. I’ve been cranky all weekend, fer instance – having spent Friday evening watching my beloved basketball Billikens fall to their conference rival St. Bonaventure in what I had considered a very “winnable” home game.
So I don’t hold it against anyone who chooses to devote time and energy – and – dare I say it? – devotion to the big game today. This “super” game. The game to end all games.
Many will find this diversion enormously attractive – of that, I have no doubt. I’ll probably tune in myself, at least for a time. I will also be mystified by those who feel compelled to bet on the game.
I’ve never understood the attraction in a wager. Having surrendered my heart to a team, I’m also now supposed to surrender my wallet? That’s gonna make this diversion more enjoyable? I just don’t get it.
And I most especially don’t understand the latest trend in online betting. One outfit’s ads promise that its smart-phone app can “make every moment mean more.” But what I actually see portrayed in the ad is a lonely, neurotic man incessantly engaging with his phone…while almost completely ignoring the game that’s supposed to be entertaining him.
Thanks, FanDuel. But no thanks: I think I’ll pass. When I see the guy in your ad, it’s not enticing at all. He seems instead like somebody the prophet Jeremiah would easily recognize:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh…
He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.
Having said that, I am also intrigued to notice the sporting propositions we encounter in today’s readings. In the gospel passage, Jesus more or less encourages his believers to take a flyer on some longshots:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.”
And St. Paul actually ups the ante for those among us who have given our hearts over to the Lord:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
“Raised from the dead.” Upon close inspection, this doesn’t necessarily sound like a safe bet, does it? So maybe we’re already bigger gamblers than we ever thought we could be.
We are, after all, called to be like Christ – the One who played the biggest longshot of all, laying down his life to set us free.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.