Sunday, October 6, 2013

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

As much as I hate quoting a New York Yankee, Yogi Berra, who has provided some of the most humorous and truest quotes in baseball, once observed, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” 

Whether it’s a nine-inning baseball game, a four-quarter football game, a five-set tennis match, or whatever game you’re playing, Yogi is correct: until it’s finished, it ain’t over. And this wisdom should be encouraging to all of us – whether we’re Orioles fans (in which case it is over!) or Ravens fans (who have three-quarters of a season to go yet), hope can spring eternal for those who have faith in the object of their devotion.

Our First Reading comes from a minor prophet in the Old Testament, Habbakuk. He is speaking to us from a very tough time in Israel’s history, when the nation seems to be falling apart, and the Babylonians are about to deport many Jews. Habbakuk starts by questioning God’s justice – like I do after a Joe Flacco interception!

In times of uncertainty, it is natural for us to question. We don’t know the future; we cannot see it; and an outcome is never truly certain. However, we do live in a world of cause and effect. Generally, actions produce effects, reactions and consequences. These are both good and bad.

But the choices have to be made first.

What are these choices for us?

First, we can choose not to do anything in the face of uncertainty and doubt. While this might seem “safe,” it is still a choice (as the band Rush once observed, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”). And such a choice will usually leave us exactly where we are or keep us heading wherever we are going.

Another technique we might employ is to ask God to make a big change in our life – a little divine intervention always fixes everything, right? I’ve done this sort of praying during Ravens games quite often! However, even in the light of this seemingly good prayer – “Lord, increase our faith,” as the apostles ask Jesus today – Jesus has a lesson to teach.

For Jesus, it is not a matter of “increasing” their faith. Rather, it is a matter of them recognizing the faith that they do have. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,” He tells them, “then you’d be able to do extraordinary things.”

So what is the “mustard seed magic?”

In light of the perseverance that our readings are calling us to, it means looking at what is right in front
of us and doing it with the love and strength that God gives us. It means focusing on this moment, this task, this “now.” Our lives are made up of just such moments, they are the building blocks of our stories – grand stories made up of individual “now’s.”

In responding as He does to the apostles, Jesus brings them back into the moment – not the end result, but this action, here and now – as small as a mustard seed. Everything else will come in its time.

… just like that “vision” of Habbakuk.

In the midst of the prophet’s and the people’s confusion and doubt, God also responds. “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

There is a lot of life to live as God gives it to us; but it only comes one moment at a time. When we keep our heads in the game, we can press on to the fullness of that life, recognizing that God is in command. Sure, it might look bleak at any one given moment, but that is only a part of a whole, where more moments await us – more opportunities.

Today, Jesus comes to us at this moment in a very small and quiet way – a wafer of Bread; a sip of Wine. His Body and Blood are food for the journey, nourishing us to remain faithful and to recognize the “mustard seeds” in our own lives. With that help, we can realize that as long as there’s a game to play, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

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