A guest post by Fr. John Beal. This was originally presented yesterday (Aug. 11) as a homily at the Church of the Resurrection, Burtonsville, Md.
Six years ago, Cal Ripken, Jr., was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
In a week when a lot of not so nice and not so honest athletes were hogging the sports pages, it is heartwarming to remember that a genuinely nice person made it to Cooperstown.
I know it is heresy to the Oriole faithful, but the truth is Cal Ripken may be a saint but he was not really a superstar. The statistics do not lie:
Cal was a good hitter but his career .276 average pales in comparison with the average of, say, Tony Gwynn who was inducted into the Hall on the same day.
Cal could hit with power, but his 431 career home runs leave him far behind not just Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and a lot of other PED assisted sluggers but even behind a lot of unjuiced hitters, such as Fred McGriff, who is about 80 home runs ahead of Cal, who will never be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Cal was a competent fielder. He even won two Gold Gloves, but he was never mistaken for Ozzie Smith at shortstop.
Cal was a good player; he would not have lasted twenty years in the big leagues if he wasn’t. But he was only, like all the children of Lake Wobegon, above average.
Cal’s claim to fame and to the Hall of Fame was that he played in 2,632 consecutive games. Day in and day out, night after night, year after year, whether the pennant was on the line or the Orioles were going nowhere, he showed up and played.
Where else but in baseball can you become a hall of famer, a saint, just by showing up and doing your job?
Where else can you be sainted just for showing up and doing your job? In life. At least that is what the Gospel suggests this morning.
Jesus Will Reward What We Might Not
Jesus says: “Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” And what were those servants who were ready to open the door doing? Just doing their job.
Would we reward our employees for staying awake when they are on duty? Would we fall all over people when they manage to stay awake hour after hour as the night drags on when that is what they are getting paid to do?
Would we make a big deal over people who showed up and did their jobs? Even if it was 2632 nights in a row?
Maybe we would not. But the Gospel assures us that God will. Jesus says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen I say to you, he will. . . have them recline at table and proceed to wait on them.” Maybe Jesus is suggesting that life is like baseball.
Finding Redemption and Sainthood by Showing Up, Doing Our Job
Finding redemption and sainthood just by showing up and doing our job? It sounds too easy, we say. Our pasts belong to the past. Yesterday we may have gone 0 for 4, struck out with the bases loaded, and made a few errors. But that was yesterday.
What God asks of us today is that we stop brooding about yesterday and show up and do our job today.
What the future will bring we do not know and, even if we did, we could not do much about it. The future is tomorrow and God asks us to show up today and do our job.
The Gospel asks us to show up today and be the best parent, the best spouse, the best friend, the best employee we can be today. Yesterday can be forgiven, tomorrow can deal with tomorrow. All we have is today.
Life is Like Baseball
Life is like baseball. Even the best batters fail 70% of the time; even the best fielders boot routine ground balls and have to stand there humiliated in front of thousands of booing fans; even the best strike out three or four times as often as they hit home runs; even the best make incredibly bone-headed decisions that are second guessed for years to come.
But in life, as in baseball, the best keep showing up and doing their jobs.
Does it sound too easy? Ask Cal Ripken how easy it is to show up day after day, night after night when you ache and hurt all over, show up when your mired in a slump, show up when everyone is saying that you don’t have it or you’re over the hill, show up when you would rather be just about anywhere else, show up and do your job 2632 times in a row.
Easy? No. Possible? By the grace of God, yes. Even for us.