For baseball fans, the last days of MLB’s spring training are a time of subtle excitement, nascent enthusiasm, and a tepid longing and anticipation – Opening Day is almost here! For big leaguers, spring training has been a time of working on fundamentals: taking ground balls, shagging fly ball and pop ups, working on their swing, experimenting with new or weaker pitches and pitchers take PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice) running to cover first base until they’re blue in the face. It’s a time when those veterans signed to minor league contracts and those young prospects try to make the club. Others players are working hard to win that fifth rotation spot or that fourth outfielder trying to make the starting outfield. Yes, the practice and exhibition games, the smell of the chalk and the freshly cut grass on the field build excitement in the players and the fans alike. Everyone’s in first place – hope springs eternal!
The Christian penitential season of Lent is a lot like spring training. Lent is a time to help us draw closer to the Lord. It is a time in which we are able to walk with him during his time of fasting and prayer in the desert, to be able to enter into his passion and cross, and to be able to celebrate our salvation at Easter. Yes, Lent is our spring training, working on the fundamentals of a life of faith through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and acts of mercy. A time to realize the point of life: to know and love the Lord who created us, saved us and desires us to spend eternity with him. That, as John 3:30 says, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
A couple of years ago Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York City, wrote a blog stating that Lent is “spiritual spring training,” stressing the themes of prayer, penance and charity. He goes on to say that our “enemy is not the Boston Red Sox. Our enemy is not even the St. Louis Cardinals. Our enemy is Satan and sin and selfishness,” adding that the victory on Easter was not a pennant or a World Series Championship, “our victory is eternal life.” He is absolutely right. We are trying to live in God’s good graces through faith to enter into the eternal life he won for us. Even if we have “struck out” a time or two on our spiritual practices and disciplines this Lenten “spring training” we can always, like that old wily veteran, go back out there and keep trying to hit the cut-off man or taking that outside pitch to the opposite field in our spiritual disciplines. And in our lives of faith we can do so with confidence because Christ has already beaten Satan. It seems that Satan was the first to strike out in history, three times trying to tempt the Lord in the desert and three times swinging and missing, ultimately losing the game with Christ’s death and resurrection.
As we have gone through several weeks of Lent, we can refocus on the those spiritual practices, practices that we may have faltered at a time or two thus far, and with God’s grace, refocus on walking with the Lord in the desert to the cross. Working on our spiritual fundamentals, knowing when we face temptation we can strike out Satan with the Lord as our batterymate. This way we can be ready for our “opening day” Easter Sunday.
Remember, Easter and Opening Day (which Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith is trying to get Congress to create into a national holiday) are just around the corner: Easter –April 20th and Opening Day – the first game is officially March 22nd in Australia between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks with first pitch starting at 3:00 am CST; but back here in the States it is Monday March 31st, with a full day of games.
May God continue to bless you throughout these forty days of spring training (Lent). Here are Bros. Patrick and Wesley’s predictions for the upcoming season:
Br. Patrick’s Season Predictions:
AL East: 1.TB, 2.BOS, 3. NYY, 4.BAL, 5.TOR AL Central: 1.DET, 2.KC, 3.CLE, 4.MIN, 5.CHW AL West: 1.OAK, 2.TEX, 3.LAA, 4.SEA, 5.HOU Wild Card: BOS & KC
NL East: 1.WAS, 2.ATL, 3.PHI, 4.NYM, 5.FLA NL Central: 1.STL, 2.MIL, 3.PIT, 4.CIN, 5.CHC
NL West: 1.LAD, 2.ARI, 3.SFG, 4.COL, 5.SDP Wild Card: ATL & ARI
WORLD SERIES: STL over OAK
Br. Wesley’s Season Predictions:
AL East: 1.NYY, 2.BAL, 3. TB, 4.BOS, 5.TOR AL Central: 1.DET, 2.KC, 3.MIN, 4.CLE, 5.CHW
AL West: 1.TEX, 2.SEA, 3.OAK, 4.LAA, 5.HOU Wild Card: BAL & KC
NL East: 1.WAS, 2.ATL, 3.PHI, 4.FLA, 5.NYM NL Central: 1.STL, 2.PIT, 3.MIL, 4.CIN, 5.CHC
NL West: 1.LAD, 2.ARI, 3.SFG, 4.COL, 5.SDP Wild Card: PIT & ARI
WORLD SERIES: LAD over TEX