“The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I wonder if people following the NFL draft this past weekend noticed the application of this spiritual principle. The whole concept of the draft is based on the saying from Christ. (I'm taking this image, by the way, from a little book by James Penrice called Goal to Go: The Spiritual Lessons of Football.) The idea behind the draft selection is to create parity in the league. Teams select in reverse order of how they finished the previous season. A team that was once bad can, in theory, become good by adding quality players through high draft picks.
“But you, O Lord, laugh at them” (Ps 59:7-8).
To have a sense of humor means to be able to "see through things," as Fulton Sheen once put it. Think about it. Jerry Seinfeld points to the mundane experiences of life, like grocery shopping, and we laugh because we realize there is something behind the mere obtaining of food. Comedians see through ordinary events.
America was deeply torn after the Civil War. The fighting may have ended, but divisions had not been healed. Reconstruction, if anything, made matters worse. Policies did not quite appease the southerners, while northerners felt betrayed. And blacks in the south were not in a tremendously improved situation.
Imagine the United States of America is invaded by China. Think of the movie Red Dawn, if you've seen it. We have been conquered and most of our American culture has been banned. One day—remaining in our hypothetical scenario—an individual comes along and claims to be the leader who will free us from our oppressors. We believe him. We follow him. When it comes time to implement the plan to overthrow the invaders, our savior drops a bomb. The problem is with us, not them. We, he says, need to convert. We are shocked. We are offended. And so when the Chinese arrest our leader and sentence him to death, not only do we not object, we approve of his killing.
I'm a bit out of my element in meditating on Jesus the gardener. Full self-disclosure: when I see the flower bed outside the rectory, I see an ash tray for my cigar. Nevertheless, let me try. Our souls are an orchard and Jesus is the optimistic gardener. At least that's how I interpret the parable of the barren fig tree (cf. Lk 13:1-9).