by Father Mark Goldasich
Do you know Abraham, Martin and John?
Folks of a certain age, on hearing those three names in that order, will undoubtedly flash back to the 1968 song by Richard Holler. I’d not heard it in quite a while until last May at Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City, Mo.
As soon as I heard the opening notes, though, I started to tear up. Even after all these years, that song stirs up deep emotions.
For the younger generation who may not be familiar with it, the song lauds Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. (You might remember, too, the end of the song mentions Bobby Kennedy as well.) All were assassinated. Having lived through three of those dark days, I can recall a sense of great sadness. It was as if hope for a better world was being smothered. The song wistfully asks: “Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?”
These memories came flooding back as the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was celebrated a few weeks ago. The year 1963 was one of spectacular promise and great sorrow. Juxtaposed with King’s iconic “I have a Dream” speech was the death of the beloved Pope John XXIII in June of that year and, of course, President Kennedy was killed that November. In modern-day terms, those larger-than-life figures — Abraham, Martin, John, and Pope John — are called “agents of change,” defined as “leaders . . . that can initiate and drive positive changes toward the achievement of a goal.”
I like that term “agent of change.” In fact, that’s what all of us as Christians are ultimately called to be. At the same time, though, it’s easy to look around and feel overwhelmed and defeated as to what can actually be done. When I’m feeling those things, I reflect on this little story:
One day, a man named Freddy and the Lord were at a baseball game, where the Lord’s team was playing Satan’s.
The Lord’s team was at bat, the score tied 0-0, in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Into the batter’s box stepped a player whose name was Love. Love took a swing at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails. The next batter was Faith, who also got a single, because Faith works with Love.
The third batter was Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Wisdom looked it over and let it pass: ball one. Three more pitches and Wisdom walked, because Wisdom never swings at what Satan throws.
With the bases loaded, the Lord brought in his star player Grace. Satan’s whole team relaxed when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan fired his first pitch. Grace blasted the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried; his center fielder let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right over glove and the fence for a home run.
The Lord’s team won!
The Lord turned to Freddy and asked if he knew why Love, Faith and Wisdom could get on base, but couldn’t win the game. Freddy had no answer, so the Lord explained: “If your love, faith and wisdom had won the game, you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, Faith and Wisdom will get you on base, but only my Grace can get you home.”
Isn’t that the truth? The Lord wants us agents of change to put our love, faith and creativity to work in the world, knowing that ultimately only his grace will bring things home to completion.
Although most of us will not be well known in our efforts “to free a lot of people” as did Abraham, Martin and John, that’s not so bad. Maybe it’s in being “secret agents” of change that we best do what the Lord asks of us: “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing . . . and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”