Yesterday’s second reading at Mass really speaks to those of us who relate to sports. St. Paul tells Timothy–and us–to “compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life . . .” In other words, let’s get after it!
Even more, St. Paul tells us the qualities, or “keys to victory,” of those who will compete well for the faith: “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.”
Each one of these characteristcs carries into the world of sports. Righteousness implies good sportsmanship. Despite rampant cheating in some sports circles, the Christian plays fairly and conducts himself honorably on and off the field. Devotion not only implies a fierce loyalty to one’s team, but also a certain reverence and respect for the game, including its history and traditions. Surely we can’t compete well if we don’t have faith in our abilities and in our teammates and coaches.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends–or in a sports context, for our teammates. Sometimes we just have to “take one for the team,” sacrificing our comfort, our stats, or even our body for the sake of victory. Patience is an absolute must if we are going to successfully play with and through pain, disappointment, and setbacks. Meekness, which is often used interchangeably in Scripture with gentleness, is often misunderstood as a virtue for wimps or losers. In reality, meekness is what makes us coachable and able to channel our efforts toward the goal.
If these qualities apply to a mere game, certainly they apply to our Christian discipleship.
Next spring here in Kansas City we will be given a special opportunity to apply these principles at Kauffman Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals, where tens of thousands of people will gather for a Family Rosary rally. Similar events are happening all over the country.
Big events, such as Rosary rallies, Eucharistic congresses, parish missions, apologetics conferences, and the like, are great, but they require preparation. Similarly, football players don’t just show up for the Super Bowl and expect to be able to give a maximum performance. Rather, at the Super Bowl the players draw upon the fruits of a daily training and practice regimen. Their motivation (besides a new contract!) is love for the game and the desire to win the Lombardi Trophy.
May we–especially husbands and fathers–likewise be challenged to “bring it” every day, to foster righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in our own households as we strive for an eternal prize. Let’s go out and do it for love of the game. Or should I say, for love of the Name.
For those of you men who need a good spiritual workout, I recommend Boys to Men by Tim Gray and Curtis Martin. This dynamic Bible study is geared to help men grow in virtue. It’s available at www.emmausroad.org. CUF members receive a 10% discount.