My basketball coach in high school used to like to recruit football players to play the bigger positions on the team. Now the bigger players play closer to the basket. They spend a lot of time in the big rectangular box on the court underneath the basket. In that box, called “the paint”, he used to say, “it’s football on the basketball court.” It’s very physical. Little guys like me have trouble “in the paint”.
Now one of the things that he coached too was that when you are “in the paint”, when you are playing football on the basketball court, you can’t aim for the basket when you take your shot. You have to aim instead for the backboard attached to the hoop. Why? Because you need a very gentle touch to get the ball into the hoop when you are that close. And there’s nothing gentle about football on the basketball court.
But, thankfully, the backboard is always there, always attached to the basket. It somehow gives you the gentle touch when you’re in the paint. The backboard softens every shot, and even makes up for bad aim.
If we want to be close to Jesus our Goal, then we are going to be “in the paint”. It is not a gentle place. To be close to Him, disciples must endure the cold and poverty of the cave. Or the life in exile in Egypt. Or life in a poor, destitute nowhere town. Or throngs of loud and pushy people. Or unrelenting demands from social outcasts, the needy, sick, and broken. Or antagonizing and angry personalities. Or human torture. Or violent soldiers. Or criminals. And of course, death.
How can we reach our goal? How can we get the gentle touch?
We have a backboard: “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:28)
Wherever Jesus is, Mary is always there, always attached to her Son. She gives us the gentle touch to meet her Son when we’re in the football area of our basketball court. She softens all our reaches for Him and makes up for our bad aim.
Mary gives us the ability to score “in the paint”.