By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH
Quick! What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common? No idea? I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.
Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery. They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?). To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!
So – Brigance and Fox: Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death. In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.
Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor. Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own. Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse. Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.
Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.
It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us. “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained. Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.