Sand, Stars & Tebow

  We have the great celebrations of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord back to back.  In Magnificat it says that the celebration of the Epiphany traditionally includes the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding Feast at Cana.  These three events and the promise made to Abraham of his descendants were what I was thinking about yesterday.

   God promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the sand (sometimes worded as ‘dust”) and as countless as the stars.  We are Abraham’s descendants, and so each of us can think of himself as a grain of sand and as a star of the night. 

   This goes well with considering the Magi’s journey.  Since they came to Bethlehem on camels, I assume their travels took them across a desert where sand spread out in all directions in a seemingly dry and  empty wasteland.  Each of us, in and of ourselves, has the significance of a grain of that sand which the Magi crossed.

    But they crossed that wasteland in hope because there was a star to lead them.  They were not being led by any old star, but by the Light which had come into the world to dwell among those who were living in darkness.  The true guide of the Kings was the Son of God made man.

   And those grains of sand that we are, are transformed through the journey that we make through life.  We become like Christ through our adoption as children of God in our Baptism.  Like Adam formed from the dust of the earth, we are called to a destiny beyond our imagination, for we will become like Him when we shall see Him as He is. 

   We will be the lesser stars in imitation of the Star who leads us out of the wasteland into His presence. 

   Our Lord’s Baptism, the beginning of His Public Life, shows to us how this is.   Only by His taking on our sins as He symbolically and in reality does at the Jordan can these grains of sand become stars in the sky.   The waters of the Jordan take the dry sand and give it life.  And the abundance of life is given to us through the new Manna in the desert that the Wedding Feast of Cana prefigures:  the water into wine; the wine into Blood.  The very life of Christ is given to us to complete the transformation begun in our baptism.

   A grain of sand can be as great as a star of the sky when the divine is poured into it.   The desert must still be crossed, but the Light leads and feeds us through the wasteland.


   Why is Tim Tebow included in the title of this?  Mainly because I thought one might be more inclined to read this if it didn’t look like another sermon.  But also because yesterday as I walked by the sacristy on the way into Mass, I heard our priest, Father Mabala from the Congo, ask those in the sacristy, “Are they going to win today?”  I didn’t have to think about who the “they” were.

   Tim Tebow has transformed football for me.  I had grown weary of this American idol, a seeming substitute for Sabbath worship.  But Tebow has given a new dimension to the gridiron. 

   I heard an interview of him just before the playoff game started.  The interviewer asked if his confidence was shaken because of the three straight losses.  He said that he had had so many ups and downs in his career that three losses weren’t going to affect him.  Then he was asked if he had ever been a nine point underdog in a big game before.  Tebow said that when he was a sophomore in high school his team had five home and five away games  Every one of the five away games were the opposition’s homecoming since their team had not been very good.  He was asked, “Did you win any of them?”  Tebow said, “We won most of the them.”

   And as with every interview, Tebow’s last words were “God bless”.  Even the promos that the radio station had been running for the Broncos ended with Tebow saying, “God bless”.  It was so refreshing.

   Tebow said in another interview, “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know Who holds my future.”  In another he said that it had been hard for him to concentrate in practice because he had been thinking about the hospital he is having built in the Philippines. 

   Yesterday, after the game, Brian Griese, former Denver quarterback and analyst on the radio broadcast first said to Tebow, “I know there are people that you first want to thank.”  I think he said this because no matter what the first question of him after a game, the first thing Tebow does is to thank his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  So Tim did thank Him and then thanked his teammates, coaches and the fans.  And when asked about the throw he made in overtime, he first pointed out the great protection that the offensive line gave on the play.

   I haven’t watched any of the miracle games or any of the others of this season except in small parts.  Usually, I am with Mom who is not interested in football.  So I have listened to small bits of each of the games on the radio.  I listen for about a minute to see what is happening, and then shut it off when it seems to be bothering Mom.  The Chicago game I gave up on early and then couldn’t believe how they had won it.  Nine wins this year counting yesterday’s and four of them have been in overtime.  Amazing.  It has been fun, but it has been more fun because of Tim Tebow. 

   I have to admit that I had never heard of Tebow until his name appeared on OurSeton telling of the pro-life Super Bowl ad he was doing.  I had to ask my brother Dave who he was.  And I think it must be that ad that has given rise to the unusual animosity that he gets from some people.  I didn’t know about this animosity until I read George Weigle’s column on him.  Weigle was saying how unusual it was that a third-string quarterback could bring out so many vitriolic attacks.  (This column was obviously written before Tebow became a starter.)  There certainly have been other football players who have openly shown their religious belief, but none who has attracted the attention of Tebow.  

   What I think is so good is that Tim Tebow has shown young athletes that all that we do must be done in the context of our love of God, otherwise the endeavor is meaningless.

   The night before yesterday’s game I asked my sister Barb if Denver was going to win.  She said, “No.”  She asked me the same and I said, “Yes..”  Then the day of the game I asked her again, and this time she said that she was quietly optimistic.  What had brought about the change?  She said that she had heard an interview of Tim that morning and in it he talked about how the people he helps through his charities help him stay grounded in what is important.  That gave her an optimism.

   So yesterday my nephew Nathaniel and Barb came into Mom’s room with me to help Mom while the game was going on.  Pittsburgh had just scored to make it a seven point game.  I said that it had to get close to make it exciting and that it would probably be a last second field goal that would win it.  Nathaniel who is often very low key said, “It will go into overtime.”

   Mom was in bed by the time the overtime started.  I was finishing things up post-bedtime prep, and the radio was on.  Denver won the toss.  Was this good?  Denver starts from their 20.  What if they go three and out?  Tebow takes the snap, runs play action and hits Thomas.  The announcer is going crazy as he runs down the field.  It’s a foot race.  Touchdown!  The crowd is going nuts.  I run into the living room celebrate with Barb and her kids.  We call Mrs. Carroll to tell her.  Mr. Grimberg had beaten us in giving her the news. 

   Mrs. Carroll then tells us that the Seton JV basketball team, for their yearbook picture, asked Mrs. Pogue if they could Tebow.  Mrs. Pogue of course allowed them to.  That’s the Tebow effect.  That’s why he has made football interesting again.  And that’s why yesterday in addition to thinking about God’s promise to Abraham, the Magi, Our Lord’s Baptism and the Wedding Feast at Cana, I did also spend a little time thinking about Tim Tebow and rooting for the Broncos.


Jezu, ufam Tobie.