Drew Bledsoe was the number one draft pick for the New England Patriots in 1993. He had superstar written all over him even before he was drafted, and when the Patriots took him, it was a big deal. Why, you ask? Because the Patriots always stunk. They were *the* have-nots of professional football. But now they had a superstar, and they also had one of the greatest coaches in football to go with him, a Super Bowl champion. So, now everything was set for the Pats, my childhood team.
Except the owner was going to move the team to St. Louis. That’s right, the owner wasn’t so excited about New England and wanted to move everything to the middle of America. Big business tycoons can do that. So, now that finally we have the superstar coach and the superstar player, the team’s going to be gone. That’s just the Pats, we all thought.
So, I remember the last day of the season in 1994, when Drew Bledsoe led the Patriots to six wins in a row to finish the season. I remember the last game of the season, when the Patriots were tied with the Miami Dolphins in overtime, and Drew Bledsoe threw a touchdown pass to win the game and end the season and send the Patriots to their first playoff game in years. And I remember what my friend said to me: “See you in St. Louis.”
Since that day, the Patriots have won 3 Super Bowls. Today, they are the best franchise in professional football. They have the best owner, the best coach, and the best quarterback.
None of them were there in 1994. The quarterback isn’t Drew Bledsoe, it’s Tom Brady. And they’re still in New England. What happened?
The other day, the Patriots were introducing Drew Bledsoe into the Patriots Hall of Fame. He was asked about his years playing for the Pats and how he feels now. He smiled and said, “I used to be something to my kids, now I’m just a guy who can introduce them to Tom Brady.” There are a lot of great athletes out there, but I don’t know if any of them has character like that.
When I went down to Pennsylvania to visit with my father, it was his last two weeks alive. When I first got to the nursing home, I noticed a few new things in the building. There was now coffee and pastries for guests. And then there was a large mural painted on the wall. In fact, a whole hallway of murals was being planned out, with a scripture passage attached to each one. “This is great,” I thought. I have to meet this guy.
So I got a chance to meet Bob. We talked for a little while, and right away we became friends and were having lunches together. So anyway, he told me about the last mural that was planned. “The last one is an image of the Divine Mercy.” Really? “I am doing research on it.” So I offered to share a little of my own experience and understanding. Then, I said, “There’s a Divine Mercy service in the chapel here at 3pm on Friday. Do you want to come?” So Friday rolled around, and as I sat in the chapel, Bob came and sat next to me.
Afterwards, he was touched.
In the meantime, I was spending time with my father. At a few moments by his bedside, I sat next to him. “Dad, do you want to hear about Jesus’ mercy.” Sure. So, I would tell him about the Lord’s own words about His Mercy. I told him about my trip to Ecuador, and showed him the love and mercy in the whole experience that I brought back with me. I wasn’t just a son. I was someone who was introducing him to Jesus the Divine Mercy.
One day, I was eating lunch with Bob. At some point in the conversation, I can’t remember when, he said to me, “Jerome, I will always remember you as the one who brought me to the Divine Mercy.” He began the Divine Mercy mural that day. My father died that night.
I was walking with a friend last night at an old neighborhood park. I used to be a great basketball player down here, I was telling him. Then, I remembered how well I had done in school, too. I had the best grades, was always the one who wrecked the grading curve. Department awards in college, graduate school. I had inventions and a reputation in the companies I worked in and the engineering world. I had a lot of friends all the time, we used to hang out down here. I had a lot of money, nice investments, a nice retirement account accruing. I lived in the primo place in Boston. I used to be somebody. That was a while ago. I smiled and thought, “Now, I am just someone who introduces people to Jesus.”
When it was time to send a Savior to the Israelites and to bring His people up from being the have-nots to the salt of the whole earth, God first sent John the Baptist. When he came, a lot of people thought that he was the guy. Everything seemed lined up, with the baptism and the call to repentance. Now maybe the Roman domination would end. But a few short years later, and everyone was talking about Jesus Christ. He was the best ever, He was the Savior.
John the Baptist? When Jesus came, he directed everyone to Him. All his disciples left him for Jesus. He had to stand alone and speak against the king. He got the imprisoned solitude and the beheading while Jesus was doing all the miracles and then saving the world with His cross and resurrection.
And John the Baptist accepted it all. “He must increase, I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)
That was the purpose of all the years in the desert. That’s why he had the camel skin and the all-natural diet. God needed someone special to be able to accept that. That’s why Jesus could say no one was greater than John the Baptist.
We Christians are invited to a special place. We are going to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. But first, we have to get ready. We’re going to need strong character, because with all that’s going in the world today, there’s going to be the temptation to try to save people from their problems and sufferings and death. But we’re going to have to be able to surrender everything we have over to Jesus. We’re going to have to say, “He must increase, I must decrease.” We going to have to introduce people to Him.
Then, when it’s all over and we enter heaven, we’ll be smiling and we’ll say, “I used to be something to people, but now I’m just someone who can introduce them to Jesus.”
Thank you, John the Baptist.