Mariano Rivera is a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, this is his last season and his last appearance at Yankee Stadium was an emotional outpouring of affection for a man who has been a vital part of the Yankees success over the last 16 years. Now being a Red Sox fan, I find myself in a strange position. But somethings transcend team loyalties, and being a brother in Christ transcends all things (but I have to concede that he would have looked a lot better in a Red Sox uniform, you know, vs the uniform of the Evil Empire.)
There is no doubt that that through his 16 year Yankee career he lived his Christian witness, teammates and fans alike held Rivera in great esteem, while being the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball certainly had something to do with that, one has to wonder how his teammate Alex Rodriquez will leave the sport. Because of his suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, ARod may have already played in his last game. ARod has had a career that any baseball player would love to have, but I have no doubt that his career will play out in a whimper vs the bang that Rivera went out on. A life like Rivera’s certainly does give us a vivd example of a life lived in excellence and in true excellence in Jesus.
When he left the mound it was almost, for lack of a better word, embarrassing, but it was in a special way. I began to wonder if the applause and hugs and emotion would end and baseball would resume. One had to wonder what ARod was thinking during the long outpouring of affection. No doubt Mariano lived to excel at baseball, you can’t succeed in professional sports at the level he did without being a ferocious competitor, relief pitchers in some ways are even more competitively ferocious because they have to come into such pressure packed situations.
Mariano is certainly an example to young Christians that they can be successful and be faithful to Christ in whatever they do in life, hey I’m an old guy and he is an example to me. We have seen so much cheating and dishonesty in sports, business, education, government and yes, even the church. To see someone who has succeeded on his own, to be showered with such affection. But that does not mean that to be a good Christian we have to be fabulously successful and so that should take the temptation away from a Christian to cheat, to cut corners, to succeed only for the sake of success. We have to remember to do our best in whatever our endeavor and then to trust the Holy Spirit as to how He will use that. Whether one is a humble parish minister, faithfully serving and leading, or a successful athlete, we have to trust that we are where God wants us, where we are best serving the kingdom. When we decide, like those who are “successful” that we should also succeed and decide to break the rules for what we think is the greater good, which usually really means our personal gratification or ego, we fail our Lord Jesus and also all those who trusted us. Whatever victory there is, is hollow, and we give the world another excuse to defame Jesus and His church. There won’t be a warm outpouring when you leave that mound for the last time, you will fade away scorned and ridiculed.
We should celebrate Riviera for his incredible witness, success did not separate him from His Lord, but let’s also remember those who humbly serve where the Holy Spirit in His wisdom has placed them and honor all those who faithfully witness day in and day out to Jesus, no matter how humbly they serve Him. If you really think that a life of the means justifying the ends really is the way you want to go, carefully consider Rivera versus Alex Rodriquez or Lance Armstrong. More than likely very few people will notice when I end, however that will be, but it simply has to be in a way that I will be remembered as a Christian with the integrity, strength and faith that God gave me to trust Him to put me where He wanted me and that the results would be to His glory. That is what a life in Christ is all about.