What do I know about golf? Not much. What do I know about the resurrection of the dead? Not much. And what do I know about restorations? Not much. But what do I know about comebacks? Quite a lot, for I have been privileged to hear stories upon stories of comebacks. I have read stories about comebacks. I have seen more comebacks than I could ever count. Comebacks reflect more than our belief in ourselves, and our abilities. At its core is the strength of that which is larger than each one of us. Comebacks are about a hope that is restless, until it comes alive.
Tiger Woods’ career was all but counted as over. The last championship he won was fourteen years ago, when his second child had not even been born. Between that interval, many in the golf world just about wrote him off. His problem was also compounded by the many personal troubles in which he found himself. He also had several medical issues relating to injuries. I, for one, do not think he lost any hope in his ability to play excellent golf, but he was so down at the bottom of the ladder that, if I remember correctly, he was selected to be a part of the US Golf team, not because of the caliber of golf he played but because of his history and former pedigree.
In a way, Tiger’s life was in some metaphorical ruins. But Tiger never gave up on himself. He worked hard, continued to play, sought the healing that he needed and rebuilt a life that had been reduced to ashes. Winning the Master’s was glorious. The sweetest part about a glorious comeback is not only about the overcoming, but to know that hope still lives in us.
Monday was a somber day around the world, but especially among the people of France and among Roman Catholics. Many were the millions who watched as part of a beautiful cathedral was reduced to ruins. One of the compelling images was the kneeling crowd who also sang Ave Maria and other hymns. I had the opportunity of visiting the Notre-Dame in May of 2001. I was part of a group of pilgrims who traveled to France from Atlanta in order to participate in a retreat at Taizé, in the south of France. While in the cathedral, I realized I was one of hundreds of pilgrims from all over the world who had traveled to Paris to soak in the ambience, and explore the rich historical heritage and the depth of spirituality that has come to embody the spirit of Notre-Dame. Time spent at the cathedral was also a moment for prayer; many were those who sat, knelt, and stood up to reach out in prayer to the God of our being.
I was surprised to read the report that thirteen million pilgrims visit Notre-Dame every year. As astonishing as it may be for both you and I, I’d like to invite you to ponder, for a moment, the number of pilgrims who have walked, gathered, fed at the Eucharist table, sought the face of God, and been refreshed and renewed. Ponder, for a moment, the many people who have been touched by their visit to this holy place. Over its life span, the floors of Notre-Dame has felt the feet of over a billion people who sought what we also seek here in Columbia and everywhere - the God who makes our comebacks possible.
Notre-Dame Cathedral will make a glorious comeback. It may not be as it was this past Sunday, but with the goodwill of people around the world, Notre-Dame will rise from its ruins, and new life will emerge out of the ashes of all that was charred, as it journeys towards a glorious comeback.
Our reality is one where God transforms our wilderness by bringing new life - that is why we cannot lose hope or dare not lose hope, for we are all built for glorious comebacks. The prime example to which we all hold dear and which we will celebrate this Easter Sunday is the one comeback which occurred in the garden where tombs had been hewn from the hills outside the city walls of Jerusalem. A glorious comeback always makes for a magnificent story. What is your comeback story?
"Yes", I ask myself, "what do you know about the resurrection?" "Not much", I assure myself. But the little I do know speaks of human redemption, one of a glorious comeback. This is the moment where we acknowledge that our lives are not about never falling, but rising when we fall. This is the moment when we realize that although our lives has often been about ruins and ashes, new life always rises out of those very ruins and ashes of that same life and reality.
Hope is restless until it comes alive. Indeed, I do not know much about golf, but I know about Tiger’s comeback story. I do not know much about restoration of historic buildings, but I am looking forward to a beautifully restored Notre-Dame. I do not know much about the resurrection, but I know that the power of the resurrection not only make human transformation possible, but it gives birth to a new kind of hope.
The image of a shining cross overflowing with the glory of God in the ruins of Notre-Dame makes me more than a believer in glorious comebacks.