I used to enjoy
playing chess. It’s a beautiful game of amazing complexity. Until computers outstripped
the human ability to play the game, many people believed chess was a game of
infinite depth. Grand masters studied the game endlessly and considered
themselves beginners. I found that thought intriguing and beautiful and I loved
But I was a lousy
player. I had no patience at all and I can’t stand to lose. Whenever I lost it
seemed A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME! So I’ve not played in years. If you want to learn
chess you’d better be prepared to lose. There is always someone who can beat
Anyone who does
anything meets failure, and probably, often. Those without the intrepid spirit quit
after a few attempts. They just can’t stand to lose.
The Hebrews in
Egypt had vague memories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but mostly they remembered
the endless frustration of slavery. Their successes were consumed by their superiors;
their disappointments were heaped upon them. They had no history of achievement.
Caught between the Red Sea and the massive Egyptian army, the runaway slaves
despaired. How could they resist bowmen and swordsmen on chariots, the
cutting-edge technology of its day?
Then the order
came from Moses, “Go forward!” Toward what? The Red Sea?
In today’s gospel Jesus
meets the same resistance among the Pharisees, though it is more sophisticated,
we wish to see a sign from you."
Before we move forward we want some assurance that this will work out, that
we’re not diving into another failure. We don’t see an opening here.
The Hebrews could not imagine the waters opening before them. The Pharisees
could not imagine the Nazarene being raised from the dead.
Often we must obey the impulses of the Holy Spirit when we cannot see the
road ahead. We practice charity when our resources seem already stretched; we
practice patience when we have run out of patience; we listen when we already
know the answer. We give our enemies the benefit of a doubt. We feel like Charley
Brown attempting a field goal as Charlene holds the football. We take the
Saint Theresa of
Calcutta reminded Christians throughout the world, the Lord requires fidelity,
not success. For that, we are grateful.