Every year, I like to get to a few high school basketball games. Basketball was my favorite sport to play as a young guy, and, having played on my high school team, I enjoy going to watch some high school games. A few weeks ago, I went with a friend to a high school game for the state playoff tournament in my hometown. It was the local public school against the local Catholic high school. The Catholic school has one of the best teams in the state, and they average 85 points a game. High schools play shorter games than college or the pros, so that’s more than a basket and a half every minute. Put it this way, if the Celtics scored like that, they would be 20 points ahead of the highest scoring team in every game.
So, on this night, that team scores 102 points and they win easily. My friend turns to me and says, “I remember that we were pretty good when I played, but I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
I turned to him and said, “Is the Y still open right now?” I wanted to play. Right now.
That’s what being in the presence of basketball being played always does to me, it makes me want to play. I want to practice and get better, and I want to start right now. I want to get on the court and be one of the players and get better and better, right now. I get inspired.
I was a basketball referee for the students at the high school in Ecuador when they had their week of sports last year. The first day, the games are winding down, and I’ve been on a court having been in the presence of basketball all day. I don’t have basketball sneakers and I’m not wearing a sport shirt. But, I couldn’t resist. And I can’t turn down the invitation. A half an hour later and my clothes and shoes are soaked through. That’s what happens when I’m in the presence of basketball being played. This desire, this force inside of me rises up and calls me into the game.
Well, why do I share that? OK, let me put it this way. I do read the sports sections on the internet. I keep up with what happens with the Celtics and Red Sox, the Bruins and Patriots, some college sports. I watch parts of some games now and then when I can. But when I do that, I never get inspired to enter the game. When I read about sports, the news, the highlights, when I watch them on TV, I don’t get that call. I’m not asking, “Is the Y still open?” I’m not inspired to play.
God has a law and there’s a book that describes all about God, the Bible. There are a lot of other books written about God and religion, and there’s of course the Bible. There are DVDs, and internet podcasts, there is news about the Church, about Christians. There are church groups, outreach and new evangelization programs. There are Theology of the Body groups, and university programs for advance degrees in theology. There are programs for the poor, and missionary groups and blogs, liturgies and talks. But, you see, on their own, none of the these things inspire people. None of the these things on their own put a fire in people’s hearts, and get them to want to jump in right now. What God needs to get other people into the game, what He is looking for to move people in the deepest part of the hearts and free them to come right now, is one thing: a real, live experience of living the Gospel. He needs someone to make real discipleship present to other people, to inspire them, to make them ask the question, “Is God’s heart still open?”
Your simple prayer in the Gospel, your following your simple inspirations from God and making the Gospel really present in life, these might seem like little things. It might seem like compared to all the stuff out there that you’ll see on the news, the good stuff and the bad stuff, these inspirations are really nothing, like they make no difference. But just remember the basketball game. When you can make real living of the Gospel present, you inspire other people, you can move them to want to act right now, to ask the question,
“Is God’s heart still open?”
“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16)