Nine days.

There are nine days until Major League Baseball’s Opening Day on March 28, 2019. It’s the earliest opening in MLB history, save for some overseas/international games that occasionally are played, including this year’s two-game series in Tokyo, Japan, between the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners on March 20 and 21.

Still, though, it’s nine days away.

As an avid baseball fan, nine days until Opening Day is like nine days until Christmas for most kids. I’m eagerly checking the box scores of the remaining Spring Training games. I wonder who will make the final, 25-man Opening Day roster for the Atlanta Braves. I dream about the glories of attending and watching games in a stadium, no matter how big, where loyalty to the game and its players causes people to lay aside their differences that have so easily divided them. I dream about watching men, young and old, try their dead-level best to make it home.

A. Bartlett “Bart” Giamatti was a Renaissance Literature professor, and later President, at Yale University. He was also a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan who became the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He was a consummate scholar and prolific writer, musing on the intricacies of the game and how we make meaning and existence out of this shared experience. In his seminal essay, “Recall as the Season Ends, the Afternoon of the Fall,” Giamatti describes the heart of baseball:

Baseball is about going home, and how hard it is to get there and how driven is our need. It tells us how good home is. Its wisdom says you can go home again but you cannot stay. The journey must always start once more, the bat an oar over the shoulder, until there is an end to all journeying. Nostos; the going home; the game of nostalgia, so apt an image for our hunger that it hurts.

Baseball season almost invariably begins during Lent each year. For me, Lent has become the Christian season during which we go home. We begin this holy season marked with black ashes, like a baseball bat coated with dark pine tar. Many stumble out of the box, unsure of the commitment to the life before us but nonetheless compelled to keep going. The tug of going home is too strong to ignore, too powerful to forget. Our need to find the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ drives us to continue the journey. But we cannot simply arrive at Easter and stay there. No, the journey begins again and again. And it is on this journey of faith, starting at home and yet always seeking to return, that we make our way during this Lenten season. Easter is surely coming and there is life and resurrection on that morning. But thanks be to God, the journey home is only beginning.