God is in the details, even on the football field

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By Joe Pisani

Sometimes in these troubled times, you have to scratch the surface to see God at work because he’s not always extravagant about what he does. He doesn’t buy billboards. He doesn’t have press conferences. And he doesn’t go on talk shows. The media wouldn’t report it anyway.

However, if you look closely enough with the eyes of faith, you will see the Holy Spirit at work, and it will give you hope when there doesn’t seem to be much reason to have hope.

Now, I confess that I haven’t sat down to watch a Super Bowl in decades, probably going back to 1969 when Joe Namath, wearing his characteristic white shoes, took the underdog New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III by defeating the Baltimore Colts in was called “one of the greatest sports upsets of all time.” I should add that I was just a kid back then.

For me, this year was no exception, because I was already in dreamland when the Kansas City Chiefs took the field against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, I always make a habit of reading about it the next morning.

Most of you probably know more about the play-by-play than I do, but as the headlines proclaimed: “NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes leads Kansas City Chiefs to 38-35 win over Philadelphia Eagles in classic Super Bowl.”

This was the second Super Bowl victory for the Chiefs in four seasons, and credit goes to Mahomes, who injured his ankle for the second time. Despite the injury in the first half, the youngest quarterback to start three Super Bowls rallied the team when they were behind. He threw a touchdown pass that was later followed by a drive, where he rushed 26 yards to be in field-goal position with the score even at 35-35.

With only seconds left, the field goal that won the game for the Chiefs was kicked by Harrison Butker, 27, a Catholic who is outspoken about his faith, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Butker later gave credit for the victory to his teammates and “the glory to God.”

He was also wearing a brown scapular with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which could be seen around his neck.

But let’s scratch the surface a little more. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ biography on Wikipedia is thousands of words long, and after you read about his successes, his parents, his sports in high school and then in college and then in the NFL, season by season, you will come to this inconspicuous paragraph:

“Mahomes is a Christian. His mother said he found his faith when he was in middle school, where he was involved with a youth group at his church. Mahomes has said, ‘Faith is huge for me. … Before every game, I walk the field and I do a prayer at the goalpost. I just thank God for those opportunities and I thank God for letting me be on a stage where I can glorify him. The biggest thing that I pray for is that whatever happens, win or lose, success or failure, that I’m glorifying him.’”

Now I’m not suggesting that God wanted the Chiefs to win, and I certainly don’t want every Eagles fan from the East Coast to the West Coast thinking that. Although stranger things have happened. In this lifetime, we’ll never know why there are winners and losers, although I’m included to think that the greater lesson is in losing than in winning.

But think about this: If all of us had the faith of these two young men, this world would be an entirely different place. God would be receiving the glory he deserves.

I’m also suggesting this: God is always at work. If you’re an old person like me, there’s no greater joy — and hope for the future — than to see young people centered on God. I mean “centered,” as these two athletes are, and not just having God as an afterthought. We’ve seen countless headlines about the so-called “Nones,” who are young people who claim no affiliation to an organized religion. But that’s not the whole story. The Holy Spirit goes where he will and does what he has to do.

And every so often, just like that Super Bowl game, when you think all is lost, God takes the ball and makes an incredible 26-yard rush to give you hope … and you realize he gets all the glory and he deserves all our trust.