Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Bulletin Article: Compete Well for the Faith (9-23-12)
“Compete well for the faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12).
If you have not been able to tell, I am a big fan of sports. In fact, one critique of my seminary staff was that I was “obsessed” with them. Guilty as charged!
I must first agree with some of the sentiments of my seminary staff—an unhealthy connection to sports is devastating to our faith and life. As my favorite radio host puts it, “Sports, sports, sports! Is your whole life just sports?!” Sports take up countless hours during the week for both students and athletes, and if this time is placed before God we do nothing short of sin. Thousands of years ago the Israelites worshiped a golden calf. The temptation today is to worship hockey, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, winning, championships and prestige—in short to worship our own accomplishments.
I find it ironic that some people find it difficult to go to Church or religious education yet have no problem getting to practice or bringing kids to practice at all hours of the week. Imagine your (kids’) hockey or soccer coach telling you, “Johnny/Suzy, the minimum requirement to be on this team is to come to practice once a week.” Wouldn’t that be simple enough? Is going to Mass on Sundays or religious education this easy for you?
The fact is, our faith, and life itself, is far greater than any game or activity. The fact is, one day sports will be over due to an injury, going to college, old age, or even death itself (and I hope I am able to stay active until death!) Hearing these things, many people in our society would conclude, “Fr. Ben is saying we must give up sports and be in a church all the time.”
In fact, when God is put first in our lives, sports becomes a potent environment to grow in the faith. God has given us bodies to run, throw, jump and compete. We are not dismembered spirits hovering in space—we have a body to use for God’s glory. Excelling in athletic endeavors is one way we can praise the Lord. In fact, faith and sports can complement each other well—both require teamwork, strength, endurance, discipline, practice, success, failure, good coaching, etiquette, execution and playing by the rules. Living out the faith will make you a better athlete, because living out the faith makes you a better person. And competition can teach us a thing or two about the faith.
And did you know there is even a patron saint of athletes? (St. Sebastian)
I challenge our athletes and parents of athletes to put God before sports in your life. Begin and end practices and games with a quick prayer—“Lord, thanks for the gift of this sport. I compete today for Your honor and name. Amen.” Pray for good health and victory, but most importantly for God’s will to be done as you compete. Make the commitment to get to Mass and religious education and invest as much (and hopefully more!) energy into these experiences as you do in your sport of choice.