(image from cdn.everyjoe.com)
Had my father's cousin Sylvia survived cancer, there is no doubt that she would have called our house mourning her beloved Bronco's defeat at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Sylvia was a die-hard fan, right down to her bright orange pom poms. However, as disappointed as she would have been, Sylvia would also have waxed in poetic admiration of the team's young quarterback, Tim Tebow. Unlike those of us who have pounced on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for another season of shattered dreams, Sylvia would have treated Tebow differently.
Before she was a Bronco's fan, Sylvia was, first and foremost, a devout Catholic. Like her aunt (my paternal grandmother), Sylvia was a woman of deep faith. In that aspect, she would have found a kindred spirit in the Bronco's leader.
As I observed Tebow, I could not help but admire him. In the face of a crushing defeat, Tebow still managed to maintain himself, still thanking God in the midst of the trial that he had just faced. He reminded me of one of the sayings of St. Therese, "Everything is a blessing." True, in Tebow's case, he could probably say that, since, win or lose, he stands to earn a princely sum for his work. Nonetheless, it is difficult to suffer defeat in a stadium filled to the nosebleeding heights with rabid fans and in front of millions on prime time television. Yet, Tebow seemed to have an air of peace about him. Win or lose, he had done his best.
What struck me the most about Tebow was the posture he took whenever he scored a touchdown. He went down on one knee and genuflected. The media calls it "Tebowing", but, to Catholics, it's genuflecting. It's the posture that we generally should assume when entering a Catholic church as we face the Tabernacle where Our Lord is in the Blessed Sacrament.
Sadly, it's a posture that many of us might have forgotten. In the article, "The Theology of Kneeling", Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that bending the knee to Our Lord is important.
Kneeling does not come from any culture -- it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God. The central importance of kneeling in the Bible can be seen in a very concrete way. The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly Liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own Liturgy.
Thus, kneeling is both biblical and liturgical. Granted, Tebow isn't genuflecting in some liturgical context, he is, nonetheless, offering thanks to God. Furthermore, perhaps without meaning to, Tebow also makes another point that the Holy Father raises:
(B)ending the knee before the presence of the living God is something we cannot abandon.
In saying this, we come to the typical gesture of kneeling on one or both knees. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the verb barak, "to kneel", is cognate with the word berek, "knee". The Hebrews regarded the knees as a symbol of strength, to bend the knee is, therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgment of the fact that all that we are we receive from Him
In this simple act of witness, Tebow reminds us that every good gift comes from God. As I see it, he also puts some of us to shame. If Tebow can genuflect out in the open (where there is no Tabernacle), why can't we do the same when we come into the Real Presence of Christ the Lord?
Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI says it best when he writes:
It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture -- insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the one before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel.
Thank you, Tim, for reminding us about the importance of kneeling before the One who saves us.