Great article on the timeless truth of the Gospel. It applies to all walks of life!
First uttered in 1973 during the National League Pennant race by baseball legend Yogi Berra, the phrase “it ain’t over till it’s over” is now a staple colloquialism in American society. Watching Super Bowl LII made me think of this saying over and over. After last season’s epic comeback by the New England Patriots [and major collapse on the part of the Atlanta Falcons] in American football’s biggest stage, nothing is truly surprising to me anymore in the world of sports. We should be prepared for the unexpected! Actually, that is what most of the world received as the clock waned done to 00:00 in Super Bowl LII—a largely unexpected victory of the Philadelphia Eagles over the celebrated, and seemingly invincible juggernaut that is Tom Brady. I want to share three lessons I took from this game and how a sporting event provided some perspective to my spiritual journey.
- Never Give Up: Anyone who has played a sport, whether professionally or at the amateur level knows that the overcome of the game is not done until the closing minutes—or even the final play. Whenever my friends and I played a pick-up game of basketball or football to relieve the stress of finals testing, the games were heated and typically ended in a close score. The first lesson I learned from watching Super Bowl LII is to never give up. It is always worth fighting until the end.
St. Paul often uses sports terminology when referring to persistence in the journey of faith. He tells us in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Lessons from football, and other seemingly ordinary activities, can translate to the spiritual life. My time on this earth plane of existence is short, but the key is there is still time. God grants us time to have many chances at asking for forgiveness and bestowing mercy on others.
- Be Bold: Another message I gathered from watching Super Bowl LII is that boldness pays off. Several times throughout the game the Eagles head coach decided to go for it on 4th Knowing he had to be gutsy in order to even have a shot beating an NFL dynasty like the Patriots, Doug Pederson, selected a trick play that may go down in football history as the most intrepid play ever—a direct snap to the running back, pitch to the tight end, and pass to the quarterback for a touchdown!
Possessing confidence in his team allowed for Eagles head coach Doug Pederson to boldly go where teams [aside from the New York Giants] went before—hoisting the Lombardi trophy in victory over the dynamic duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Such boldness captivated my attention along with the millions of other viewers of the Super Bowl. Bold and confident people attract others to themselves.
Saint Pope John Paul II was that type of individual. He once stated, “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” His words relate directly to my life situation. Struggling with confidence within my new job, I act in hesitancy that hampers my ability for achieving greater heights. Ironically, playing things safe, both in my professional and spiritual life do not lead to successes. God does not want us to worry about things outside of our control. Witnessing the football game of the year showed me that some risks are worth taking.
- Rely on Him Who Gives Us Everything: During the trophy presentation of the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl LII MVP award, the excitement of the coaches and players possessed a unique quality this time around. Obviously, any sane person would be ecstatic after winning such a highly touted championship event, but the joy the Philadelphia Eagles displayed seemed a bit different from previous awards ceremonies. All of the major figures in the Eagles franchise: owner, coaches, and quarterback—all opened their speeches with specific praises to God.
Listening to various post-game interviews I came across this video of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. His major message is to recognize our failures and look to God for stability in those tough times. We cling to God during the storms of life. Below is a link to this press conference:
Nick Foles told reporters after the game, “I may be in the NFL. We may have just won the Super Bowl, but we still have daily struggles—I have daily struggles. But that is where my faith and family. When you look at a failure in your life it is an opportunity for your character to grow…I would not be out here [playing football] without God, without Jesus in my life.” God seems to use normal, maybe even trivial stuff—like an NFL football game, to teach me about the importance of perseverance in the faith and cling to Him in time of need. In my daily struggles to grow in holiness, being a better parent, and a more loving neighbor to my fellow mankind I am grateful that God displayed Himself again to me through the ordinary example of a sporting event!
One of my favorite things to watch is to watch NFL football games. I even own a cheese head to don during Green Bay Packer games. Nothing in sports is more exciting than when a football game goes into overtime and for the first time in NFL history the 2017 Super Bowl went to overtime.
Extra regulation is needed in instances where teams end the fourth quarter in a tie. Neither team played well enough to earn the victory or bad enough to lose the game. I used to have a similar mindset when it came to the doctrine of Purgatory. Let me give 3 reasons for why I had this limited view when it came to arguably one of the more intriguing teachings of the Catholic Church.
Legalistic Outlook of Right versus Wrong
I thought for the longest time that if you followed the law [i.e. the Commandments] and your good actions outweighed your bad actions than you were on your way to Heaven after death. I viewed God as a divine accountant who tallied up all the good and bad that we committed in this live and granted us purgatory as an extra period for instances of ties.
Limited view of suffering
Until recently, I do not truly suffer much. I always thought that purgatory was a period of “time” after death whereby people got extra suffering to make up for the comforts they received in this earthly life. My view on this has since changed immensely. I came to learn that suffering has not only a redemptive, but a purgative quality to it. On a quite practical level, my marriage and family life has schooled my in this topic. For example, my lack of patience especially during our children’s bedtime routine, causes me much suffering. Through prayer and spiritual guidance I learned that God is using my children to help me grow in the virtue of patience- and sometimes growing is painful!
Learned More about the Saints
Until a few years ago, I did not know that St. Therese of Lisieux suffering from tuberculosis and that St. John Paul II’s mother died a mere month per his 9th birthday and his father passed away about 10 years later. And yet, there was something different about these two individuals and really all saints in general—their faith grew in spite of the suffering and loss experienced. Looking at the lives of the canonized saints I became aware that purgatory is not something that needs to begin after our earthly death. Rather, for them it begins in time and space. Because of this purgatory does not need to be limited to an “extra period” given since we failed to achieve sanctity in this life. We can start the process to being SAINTS today!
I will continue to write how my journey toward a more Catholic understanding of purgatory has changed my life for the better in future posts. St. Maria Faustina saliently wrote, “Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.”