Hi everyone! Happy Sunday! Here’s my homily for the SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - July 26, 2009 - (the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/072609.shtml )Thanks as always for reading. Hope you’re having a wonderful summer! Fr. Jim
Aside from when the Yankees beat them, or the Red Sox lose to them, I rarely pay any attention to or have any real interest in the Chicago White Sox. But this week, every baseball fan, even casual sports fans heard about an amazing feat, one of the rarest of sports phenomenons occurring at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Mark Buerhle pitched what is called a perfect game - which basically means - 27 opposing players came up to bat, and all 27 never got further than that. There was no walks, no hits, nada.
This is considered one of the rarest of accomplishments in all of sports. There have only been 18 pitchers who’ve thrown perfect games since the late 1800's. For the Yankees, many will remember Don Larsen throwing a Perfect Game (with Yogi Bera catching) during the World series in 1956; and in recent years, David Wells threw one in 1998; and very bizarrely, David Cone would throw one a year later for the Yankees (on Yogi Bera Day with Don Larsen throwing out the first pitch no less! A game I passed on the opportunity to go to because it was my Mom’s birthday... ah the love we have for Mom!) I remember two years later watching Mike Mussina getting to the 27th pitcher in Fenway Park (against the hated Red Sox) and being one strike away from also throwing a perfect game when Carl Everett hit a single (just another reason to hate the Red Sox).
Up until this past week, the last time a Perfect Game happened was 5 years ago. So that’s why, when they do occur, people make a big deal about it – there’s so much attention paid to it. And while, the pitcher has to pitch PHENOMENAL baseball, part of the greatness of this achievement, of this “perfection,” comes from the entire team playing PHENOMENAL baseball as well. Everything has to go right. The rest of the team needs to be completely “on their game.” One bumble of a ball could ruin the whole thing. I remember how members of the Yankees, when interviewed after the game, said how they started to realize that something special was going on in around the 4th or 5th inning, and then they grew more and more anxious themselves as each batter came up to the plate and sat back down, not thinking so much about simply winning the game, but keeping it “perfect.”
For Mark Buerhle, the most recent member of the perfect club, not to take away from his moment of history, but even he knows that if it were not for Dewayne Wise, and the absolutely incredible play he made in the outfield - where he seemed to leap up against the wall and grab a ball that had been slammed into the right field by Tampa Bay Devil Ray (I know it’s the Rays, not the Devil Rays, just like to smack them a bit) - Gabe Kapler at the top of the 9th inning, this game could have been simply a moment on the highlight reel of sports news for the week about “what almost happened,” rather then the international headline news this became. I knew I had to get there," Wise said. "I told myself, 'Whatever it takes, if I have to run through the wall to try and catch the ball, I had to do it.' It hung up there long enough to give me a chance to get back there and make the catch." A roar went through the crowd, and Wise received a thunderous standing ovation. His teammates couldn't believe what they were seeing. "It was an unbelievable feeling," Wise said. "Getting off the ground and having the ball in my hand. I was just wishing that the game was over with at that moment."
In a matter of minutes, it would be. Buehrle retired the next two batters, cementing his place in White Sox history. After the game, the pitcher was asked if Wise deserved a steak dinner for his efforts. “I think I owe him a little more than that," Buehrle joked.
The point is this “perfection” came from many contributing factors. History, sadly has a way of forgetting those essential components. Yet, to appreciate the greatness of the moment, you can’t forget those other essential factors.
In a sense, today’s miracle in the Gospel has the potential for the greatness of the moment to be missed as well. Jesus has pulled quite a perfect game himself here. Just to recount - this HUGE crowd is following him, they’ve been with him all day - and well, they’re hungry. So Jesus says - where can we buy enough food for these people to eat? The practical apostles are tired themselves and a bit exasperated, Philip basically responding, Jesus even a year’s salary would only get them a small piece each.
This little kid has 5 loaves and 2 fishes - he gives it to Jesus and miraculously, the entire crowd is fed in abundance. So much so, that there’s plenty left over in fact - there’s more left after the meal than there was before they started eating.
This is PHENOMENAL! This was such an amazing miracle that it’s recounted in all four gospels - no one forgot what Jesus did that day. Yes, that got people talking and taking notice of Him and His “perfect game.” Yet the gospel ends on an abrupt, somewhat surprising note.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.’ Since Jesus knew they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. Another translation says “Jesus escaped”.
Why didn’t Jesus want to savor this moment, to allow the glory of the moment to shine in the roars of an amazed crowd? One reason might be because, to appreciate the greatness of the moment, you can’t forget those other essential factors.
The little boy with the five loaves and two fishes, is the epitome of humbleness and trust in Jesus as he offers all that he has to the Lord for the service of others. Yes what Jesus did was pretty great - pretty perfect. No matter how hard we try, even if we had the assistance of Rachel Ray and every other expert from the Food Network, we would not be able to take 5 loaves and two fishes and somehow feed multitudes and be left with even more leftovers than what we started with. We could not duplicate this culinary miracle on our own.
Yet, the greatness of the moment is that when we offer who we are, what little we have, completely to the Lord , God can and does work miracles that can meet and fulfill the spiritual hungers of the world around us in abundance as well.
We can dismiss that. We can look at Jesus as just some magician, som e performer, some perfect athlete, and wonder, “What has Jesus done for me lately?” We can place ourselves in the role of mere spectator, waiting for that next miracle to impress us, wondering what his next feat will be . . . Or, we can take a more active role, we can embrace our weaknesses while trusting in God - we can look up, and realize that the ball is in our glove.