A Psalm for Mariano Rivera

A Psalm for Mariano Rivera May 4, 2012

Update: Mariano Rivera declares he will come back – perhaps this season .

Yesterday the great, sublime, surreal… Mariano Rivera, the great, sublime, surreal… relief pitcher of the New York Yankees tore his ACL in a freak accident while catching fly balls in the outfield before the game. Almost as bracing as the injury itself was watching  Alex Rodriguez’s horrified reaction, saying, “Oh my God. Oh my God” from some 300 feet away.

In Psalm 30, David wrote:

“As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong…”

That’s been Rivera and the Yankees. Sure they’ve lost in a few World Series and sure they’ve lost playoff series. But year in and year out they are mighty. For many of them – like Alex Rodriguez – it is their pride and egos that seem to define them.

How hard it would have to be to not be prideful when making scores of millions of dollars a year and being treated as virtual gods by many. Thats what makes Rivera so astounding. He is inarguably the greatest relief pitcher in history. He is also, by absolutely every account, a man defined by his humility, his graciousness, his generosity and, as he is the first to say, his faith in God.

God, he testifies, is the one who gave him his one great pitch, the “cut” fastball. In a New York Time Sunday Magazine story on Rivera, the reporter gaped when disclosing that Rivera will show “absolutely anyone, including rivals, exactly how he throws the cutter. When I asked him why he was so unguarded, Rivera said, ‘It’s a blessing from the Lord: when he gives you something, it’s yours.’ It took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t saying that he had an obligation to share the blessing, but rather that no one without the blessing was going to throw his cutter. God had doled out his favors parsimoniously.”

David continues Psalm 30 this way, “…you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy…”

Mariano Rivera and David were facing radically different things. David was being punished by God. There’s no reason to think God is doing the same to Rivera. David is pleading forgiveness for sinning before God and having the blood of 70,000 people on his hands. Rivera is a multimillionaire with a bum knee. It’s Everest versus the pile of sand my son dumped out of his sandbox. But one of the stupendous things about God is that God does not discriminate with his mercy and grace. God doesn’t demand our worst to give us his best. His best is what we get all the time.

Many speculate that this is the end of Rivera’s career. He has plans to become a preacher – in that he is the spiritual brother of Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow. The Yankees are down too. Rivera’s the heart and the soul and the conscience of the team – the man who makes rookies feel like All Stars and All Stars feel like All Stars. You could see how true that was in Alex Rodriguez’s visceral reaction to Rivera’s accident.

David wrestled with whether God was going to kill him, “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” Rivera is just wrestling with the end of a pitching career that was going to be over in a year or two anyway.

But their prayer – and our prayer for our own struggles is the same, “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”

I’m becoming a Yankees fan for a single reason (and season) – Mariano Rivera. I pray that there’s some miraculous way he might return to play this October. I pray that he gets the last out. I pray he raises his hands and cries out the words with which David closed Psalm 30, ” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

But just for a year.






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