College football began this past weekend. This weekend pro-football begins. For the next four and a half months, rabid fans will arrange their weekend schedules around game times. House parties will be scheduled and sports-bars will be full. Jerseys, hats, t-shirts, and bizarre headwear will be sold. Monday morning conversations will often center around a great play, a disappointing play, a referee’s call, and second-guessing a coach’s call. Rabid fans will quote statistics and rattle off details of a game. Those who do not know much about football will listen quietly, make a comment, and agree with a prevailing thought because they do not want to be left out. While the baseball season winds down — THIS IS FOOTBALL TIME.
In about six weeks, some teams chances of a winning season and a bowl game will wane. After all, only 1/2 of college football teams have a chance of a perfect season — 1/2 the teams have already lost a game. For some, game time will no longer be as important as it is now — other things can take the place of a game. Some will begin to talk about “what could have been — what should have been.” Some will talk about next year and begin to wish for Spring. Rabid fans however — will hang in to the end. Their hearts are hurt — but, they just cannot stop watching. The season might be lost —- but, heh — anything could happen in THIS GAME and our team might just be a spoiler for one of the winning teams. Pride is held high as enthusiasm wanes.
In this weekend’s Gospel [Luke 14: 25-33], Jesus uses strong language to tell us that he wants rabid fans and followers — he does not welcome the fair-weather fan or the fan who is there for the food and drink treats. In fact, he tells us that if anyone or anything is more important than following him — then we are not worthy of the name disciple. If we choose someone or something over following him — then we are not in truth, one of “his own.” If we want to wear a cross — but not carry a cross, then we are mixed up about what the cross means.
If a loss, or a series of losses, if disappointment or pain make us question why we are doing what we are doing — then our commitment is not where it needs to be.
Many teams that experienced upset losses — those who lost when everyone expected them to win — are being challenged to have a “gut check” this week. What do we have in the heart, what is in the gut?
Jesus is asking us to check our gut — are we with him 100%? Are we sticking with him despite what others are saying? Are there reasons, excuses for why we no longer have hope?
And, Jesus is even asking: is our commitment to him stronger than our commitment to the Church? For some — many? — Jesus and the Church are one. For others — many others? — Jesus is bigger than the Church and at times a commitment to him might even require conflict with the official Church.
When one chooses to follow Jesus — to be a true fan and a disciple — they exhibit the wisdom of knowing what is true and right. It is more than weighing the wins and losses — it is more than foreseeing what the cost might be. Like the linebacker or defensive end who plays with reckless abandon, Jesus is calling us to make the commitment knowing deep within that we will prevail [win].
The corruptible body [the world] Wisdom 9:13-18 — burdens our spirit and our soul. Too often we play it safe — too often we hold off until the decision has been made — too often we are afraid of taking the risk —- if only we knew the outcome, i.e. the counsel of God. But, we can know the outcome — we can for-see what is to come. There are the days to come when the things of heaven will be here in our midst.
In football — every game will have a winner and a loser. Every weekend some people will go home happy and some will be disappointed and some angry. Some will lose their tempers and some will lose a few dollars.
In life and in death a disciple KNOWS that the only way to come out ahead is to stay the course — to stick with Jesus — to follow him even when do not understand. At times this might cause a rift among friends, strain on family relationships, disputes among business partners, and disagreement about the course of the Church —— and the same can happen in football. Not everyone cheers for the same team to win.
But, if we are to experience separation, is it not better to do so because of our commitment to Jesus? Remember just a couple of weeks ago when Jesus said that he came to set a fire — and how he wished the blaze were lighted?
Let us make our choice without wishing or bringing violence upon another. Let us make our choice without doing harm to those who think differently. Let us not cause a fight “in the stands” or in the parking lot or in the after-game gatherings.
I like football —- I do not like to lose. But, I have come to know that some things are just a game — and other things are so much more important. Sticking with Jesus is most important. It is the only way to be # 1 at the end of the season, during the days of our life, and at the end of life.
Are you a rabid fan or a casual follower?