Friday, December 18, 2009

College Football and the Peace of Christ

Those who are college football fans know Tim Tebow, the amazing quarterback for the University of Florida Gators. His accomplishments in the arena of football are already legendary. However, what I find most interesting about Tebow is his faith and the way he wears it on his sleeve. Actually, he wears it on his eye black. Eye black is the black strip that football players often wear under each of their eyes. Tebow puts scripture verses in white on his eye black. A couple of weeks ago he wrote "John 16:33" on his eye black. That passage reads: "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Peace is important to Christ, and to us. However, peace as Jesus speaks of it does not mean the absence of conflict. Jesus talks about giving us peace in the midst of tribulation, not as a replacement of it. Think of the peace that so many martyrs experienced in the midst of their martyrdom. St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp spring immediately to my mind. The peace of Christ helps us to oppose the world, and to transform it, because Jesus has overcome the world. John begins his Gospel with this crucial message of Christ's supremacy:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

John also focuses on peace elsewhere. When Jesus is telling his disciples about his departure from this world and the coming of the Holy Spirit, he addresses the worries and fears of his followers:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Again, we are told that the world is not to be our guide, but Jesus. He often speaks in the Gospels of not being afraid (which Pope John Paul II reiterated throughout his pontificate). Peace does not eliminate trouble, but it does eliminate fear, because we put our trust in the One who is wholly trustworthy.

On the evening of Jesus' resurrection, he appears to the disciples in their closed room and his first words to them are: "Peace be with you" (John 20:19). They were certainly facing tribulation that day, and would in the foreseeable future, but Jesus greets them with a message of peace and trust.

Tim Tebow put John 16:33 on his eye black before Florida fell to Alabama and would not play for their third national championship in four years. Jesus did not promise that there would not be disappointment. He did promise that if we place our trust in Him rather than in the world, we would not be disappointed, and in that trust we would find peace. Tim Tebow understands that, and I appreciate his reminding us all of that promise.

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