I am, at best, a mediocre ball-striker. As such, I know well when I have experienced a moment of grace in a golf match.
Just such a moment occurred yesterday, on Easter Thursday afternoon, as I played the fourth hole in our initial competitive match of the season.
Some background: I had high hopes for my game heading into League play this year. Well, perhaps “high” is overstating the case. But my hopes were surely elevated by the purchase of new clubs in the off-season – a set of “game improvement” irons, with some high-falutin’ technology baked in to compensate for a swing that doesn’t always result in a solid strike.
Suffice it to say, new irons or not, I won’t be joining the Champions Tour any time soon. However, there was that one shot on the fourth yesterday which enthralled me.
Gripping (throttling?) a long iron, I unleashed an anxious swing and then felt the unmistakable sensation of off-center contact with the ball. Looking up, I expected to see my shot veering insipidly to the right. But ‘lo and behold, it actually went straight…and traveled a good 160 yards or so.
Glancing quickly at the club face, I found there a tell-tale sign of the grace I had just witnessed: a dimple-smudge imparted by the ball on the very toe of the club. Owing to my anxious swing, I had indeed missed the sweet spot by a goodly margin. Still I paid almost no price for the transgression. A little distance lost, yes…but my ball was still on track toward the green.
The memory of that moment brought a smile to my lips this morning when I broke open the gospel story we hear on Easter Friday.
In it, Saint Peter learns all about feasting on an unmerited second chance. “I’m going fishing,” he announces to his band of buddies, not long after they’d all encountered the Risen Lord. But despite their high hopes, they catch nothing – until Jesus appears on the shoreline and offers them a mulligan.
So [Jesus] said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
The Easter octave – our great feast that stretches out over the course of eight days – seems like a suitable time to meditate on this gift we all receive from the Risen Lord. Jesus knows us well. He knows, too, that despite the mercy won for us on the cross – his mercy, bursting triumphantly from the grave – we’re likely to slip back into our old habits.
We’ll still swing anxiously, locking our game-improvement irons in a death-grip.
We’ll still choose to go back to fishing, rather than row forward into Easter grace.
But isn’t it striking to know this? If we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, his great love and mercy can forever keep the grace of Easter dawning in our hearts.
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Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.