“Well, this is weird,” I said to myself…because there was absolutely no one else in the room with me, watching a recent World Cup match on TV.
Pretty good game, this “Pope Bowl” was – pitting Poland (JP II’s favorite side) against Argentina (which claim Pope Francis as their most famous fan). But the Argentine lads were clad in purple, I noticed. This, for a team whose nickname is La Albaceleste – “The White and Sky-Blue” – the beloved colors of their traditional kit on the pitch.
It was jarring to see, because I’m rather fond of the usual hues. I find them pleasing to the eye, and that’s a big reason why I sidled up to Argentina as my second favorite squad in the global competition – right behind the good ol’ US of A. (Sadly, Pusilic and the rest of the homeboys bowed out this weekend…so I guess Argentina have now moved up to #1.)
In what universe, I wondered, could La Albaceleste ever succeed in purple? Everything seemed wrong about the match…until Lionel Messi started raining down goals on the competition. Then hope bloomed once again, and I began to see those unusual unis in a different light.
The Argentines were wearing Advent colors, I realized. The color of hope.
Now, this reasoning is surely far-fetched. I seriously doubt whether an organization as rife as FIFA would every consider “evangelization” an objective for asking Argentina to don a secondary shirt in the tourney. But perhaps the Holy Spirit has ways of sanctifying the world that are beyond my expectations…
The prophet Isaiah certainly thinks so. In the first reading we hear at Mass this week, he envisions a scene that in many ways is no less improbable than “Argentina in purple”:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together…the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
It’s hard to imagine such a turn of events, isn’t it? Especially when you look around and see Putin pounding Ukraine, Xi Jingping brutally repressing his people, and FIFA looking right past a raft of human rights abuses to select a host nation for the 2022 World Cup. Power and corruption seem to come out on top every time.
But Advent calls us to hope. This holy season reminds us that yes, in the blood of the Lamb, we can find a way to turn swords into plowshares…and bitter rivals into friends.
I experienced a mini-lesson along those lines myself just yesterday, at another sporting event – the Billikens vs. SIU-Carbondale basketball game. As it happens, my brother’s seats are situated right behind the Visitors bench…so we found ourselves surrounded by fans of the opposing side – vocally partisan Dawgs and Billikens, all in close proximity.
The “guy next-to-me” seemed reasonable enough, even though he was clad in the wrong colors for me to suppose that he could ever be my friend. But I decided to chat him up anyway – one basketball fan to another. And before long, we discovered that we did indeed have much in common – including a whole host of mutual acquaintances, our ACTS brothers-in-Christ from Mary Queen of Peace, a parish that I had helped “mission” more than 15 years ago.
The encounter filled my heart with a full measure of Advent wonder…Advent hope. When Christ is “in the house”, Isaiah’s vision can in fact start to come to life.
What better reason, then, to embrace this season of hope more fully…as together, we pray: “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Thanks John, I guess I’d like to believe that a “higher” power, even higher than FIFA or the Argentinan FC, chose purple…hope was clearly on the minds of the athletes playing for thier share of World Cup glory.
A side note though as you’re selection for teams to support is rooted in the color of jersey’s you should find an ally in my bride at the race track, that’s where she bets the colors of the silks, has nothing to do with the horse itself (lessons learned at Ascot). Have a blessed day.