A taste of glory

There are many reasons to celebrate the victory of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Rugby was the game of the whites in South Africa before Freedom Day in 1994 and now it has been transformed into something the whole country can relate to.

Also, the euphoria following the win on October 2 echoed those scenes in 1994 when the country celebrated the end of the old divided world and the beginning of a new united country. Many words, most famously those of Captain Siya Kolisi, express the hope that this event will bring the country together anew. Many South Africans, aware of the tensions arising from the unfulfilled dreams of a quarter of a century ago, fervently hope so.

These thoughts express the release of joy the victory brought but we can also celebrate the sheer quality of the game itself. It was ‘awesome’ – this time the word is appropriate – to watch the South African defence in the last quarter of the first half. The English mounted fierce attacks time and time again and for ten unrelenting minutes were within a few feet of the scoreline.

But the Boks stood their ground in a dazzling display of defence. My mind strayed to the Battle of Waterloo when the French repeatedly assailed the British lines but could not break them!
What thrills us is to see people stretch themselves to the limit. You could see they gave everything and were struggling for breath when there was a pause in the game. We long to give all of ourselves in life and in love. And it is agony to keep falling short. It is the sorrow of being human, as the fourteenth century author of the Cloud of Unknowing tells us.

Perhaps what we are really celebrating in this victory is to glimpse what human beings are capable of. That is the message of Jesus. Each of us is capable of greatness. ‘You will see greater things than this’. It will show itself in a multitude of different ways. For some it will be on the sports field. For others it will be in a hospital bed where a person reaches beyond the pain and the frailty and suffers ‘in the right way’. Viktor Frankl, who endured the concentration camps in World War II wrote:

I understood how a man who has nothing left in the world may still know bliss … In utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way, man can achieve fulfilment.

So, thank you Siya Kolisi and your team, you have shared with us a precious taste of glory. May we relish it!

10 November 2019 Sunday 32 C
2 Maccabees 7:1…14 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 Luke 20;27-38

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