I went to prison yesterday. And I gather, that was a lot more entertaining way to spend the day than watching my favorite college basketball team close out its (once quite promising) season.
I’m enough of a fan that some in my circle seemed surprised I wouldn’t be watching the Billikens’ final game “live” on a Saturday afternoon in March. Well, here’s thing: for starters, I was hoping (expecting?) that it wouldn’t be their final game. That, somehow, this talented-but-inconsistent squad would get its act together…vanquish its nemesis…and stride proudly onward toward a slot in the Big Dance.
Alas, my fondest hopes were dashed yet again – an outcome that would surprise no objective observer whatsoever. The Billikens, frankly, seem to specialize in torturing their fan base. Sure, they win plenty of games season after season. But they never quite seem to be able to make it over the hump. The Promised Land – a Final Four appearance (or even a Sweet Sixteen, for criminy’s sake) – remains ever shimmering like a mirage, just on up ahead.
And so I find myself grumbling yet again – utterly unable to appreciate this season’s 21 wins, as I struggle to look past the present and acute pain of the 12th loss on SLU’s ledger.
Admittedly, it’s an odd thirst I experience each spring. But I’m guessing every one of us has a similar sticking point in his or her life – a specific pain or disappointment that Satan seems to have cooked up just for us. Just to make us wonder whether God is actually listening.
I’m thinking, too, that the Chosen People would understand what I’m talking about. In today’s first reading from Exodus, we hear them more or less longing for a return to enslavement:
In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” … [They] tested the LORD, saying “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Their story ends happily, of course, when Moses obeys the Lord’s command…strikes the rock…and produces a stream of flowing water to slake their desert thirst.
As it happens, my story winds up being visited by a similar experience of God’s providence. Inside the walls of a maximum security prison, no less. There (even as my beloved Billikens were slogging toward a dispiriting loss) I was reunited with “Matthew,” one of the residents…who could barely contain his delight that I and nine other of his “outside brothers” had come for a visit.
Matthew shared many tales of grace in the time I spent with him yesterday. They flowed out of him like life-giving water. One in particular stuck with me – when the 70-year-old mentioned how he’d been using some pension money (earned during his working years, prior to incarceration) to help other, younger inmates finance their court pleadings. “People here tell me I’m crazy,” he said, “that I oughta be spending that money on my own case. But I know better. I know one day I’m gonna see those young men in the Kingdom – where they’ll all be smiling at me.”
I’m betting Matthew will meet up with St. Paul when he gets there, too – because like the great saint before him, Matthew clearly knows a sure and certain peace in his heart (despite the discouraging circumstances under which he lives). He’s not looking for the things of this world to satisfy his thirst. Rather, like Paul, he tends to drink-in his serenity from an Inexhaustible Source:
…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Wow John. No other words.
thanks john –another st matthew witnessing jesus’ love to others –thank you for sharing and thank you jesus -john reiker
Great sharing, Brother! How did you get a phone or camera inside for the pic??????? 😉 Blessings Angel