“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. But baseball has marked the time. This game; it's a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”
The game of baseball or any sport for those who pay attention to such things can, I believe, be associated with the great spiritual gifts: faith, hope and love.
The professional baseball season occurs mostly during the church’s Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time has two parts: from after the feast of the Epiphany to the day before Ash Wednesday; then from the Monday after Pentecost to the first Sunday of Advent. This church season gives us plenty of time; time to strengthen our relationship with God and Christ Jesus, to build relationships in worship, community and service.
Baseball season has two parts; spring training and the regular season. Like Ordinary Time baseball takes its time. Spring training begins with hope and expectations that development and growth in baseball skills will result in a winning season. Maybe going “all the way.” Play in the regular season counts in the standings until all play ends and then the World Series.
The baseball season and Ordinary Time are full of hope and expectation. Believing and doubting are at the core of religion and baseball.
Worship during ordinary time is the expectation and the hope that the mystery of Christ penetrates ever more deeply into our hearts, until we are caught up in a continuing, loving relationship with Christ.
There are times, in the Eucharist, when Jesus himself offers me His Body in the bread, His Blood in the wine; when in the Chapel praying to Our Lord that healing will happen, I have a palpable sense of presence, a mystery no words can explain. A feeling that somehow for that moment, faith is at its core, certainty dispels doubt.
As the 2004 American league championship seven game series went to a fourth game, I had an agonizing foreboding that my team would suffer a humiliating loss. They won the series at the last possible moment. That unbelievable ending, that moment, was sacred for me, an intense experience, ineffable at its core, a feeling there were higher forces at work.
Some experiences are unexplained, revealing moments of intense feeling too overwhelming to be expressed in words. These are the sacred connections between the joys of loving baseball and the joys of a spiritual life.
It seems to me we continuously search for meaning in persons, things and places capable of connecting us as believers to the sacred. Each one of us in our own time, place and context make a choice separating what is sacred for each one of us and what is not sacred.
When the sacred shows up in certain things and actions, we are lifted up to the spiritual plane. We are connected to where the sacred shines through. It becomes for us an ineffable religious experience. How can we explain this experience? There are no words that explain the sacred.
Faith is a gift from God. What we do with that gift is one of the central challenges in life. A religious tradition and love for a baseball team’s tradition, as time passes, will be doubted and tested. And the reaffirmation of that tradition comes with joy and thanksgiving, something lyrical and mysterious. The joy of confirmed faith, grace upon grace; the joy of a spiritual life; the joy of an impossible win at the last moment.
“A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap: for the measure you give will be the measure you get back”