“The Sower” by Jean-François Millet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.’” (Matthew 13:1-9)

Now, here is a new twist on an old scripture verse.

Many people today are sports fans, and most have participated in some sporting activity, even if only as a spectator. So, this story of Christ’s teaching might be viewed more appropriately through the lens of a modern sporting event.

Imagine we are getting ready for the big game—could be anything, football, baseball, soccer, water polo—choose your favorite sport.

Now we need to recognize that there are always going to be those who hear something about the big event and let it go in one ear and out the other. It could be a game for the ages, but these folks are just not interested.  These folks are, if you will accept the analogy, for the birds. (See verse 4 above)

Then there are those who are always up for any gathering at the park. These are the folks who are mildly interested in the game, they may have a favorite team, and they will have heard there is going to be a group of folks getting together so—count them in. These folks never really become true fans, and they are not particularly interested in the back and forth struggle between the opposing teams or the great plays in the game. They are likely hoping for an easy victory that will lead to a big celebration. For these folks, when the game seems to drag on and the outcome seems uncertain, they realize the end of game celebration may be delayed, and they start to lose interest. These folks have no depth of understanding about the game, and they are not deeply invested in the outcome. The long delay in the celebration will likely cause them to leave early because things just went on too long for them. They actually end up with wilting away from the gathering and missing all the fun.  (See verse 5-6 above)

Then there are those who are really into the game, these folks love to be part of the action. They buy tickets and show up for the tailgate party. They love the food at the stadium and a few drinks to wash it down. They scream for the first half to three quarters and really enjoy themselves. But then they too start to get hot sitting under the sun. These folks think about the steaks waiting at home, they have other things they could do like play golf, watch Oprah, or play some really neat game on their iPad (yes, this is sarcasm for all you gamers out there). Anyway, the team is struggling, and these folks have many other things they could be doing. So they decide to head for the parking lot. These folks never seem to focus or set priorities for what they really want to do. They usually become overwhelmed by having too many items on the schedule for any given day and they end up in a thorny situation. (See verse 7 above)

Finally, there are those who are not only at the stadium, or the park, or the running track, or in the coliseum, but they are actually in the game or the big event. They took the time to prepare; they honed their skill; they paid the price; they are on the field; they are wearing the jersey.

They are well aware that being on the playing field means that they will have to endure the consequences, everything from the opposing team’s efforts to outdo them, to the weather and even to those folks on the sidelines who only showed up to watch. These individuals will have to fight; they will have to struggle. They will experience minor victories, but they will also bear the burden of major setbacks. They will run the real risk of getting hurt; something might actually get broken in the midst of the struggle.

On the other hand, they will also know something else. They will know that when they leave the field of competition, or we might even call it the field of battle (prayer), where they will have stood arm and arm with their brothers and sisters and known what it is to suffer, to sacrifice for one another and ultimately to stand together and experience the glory of the victory, then they will know meaning of the word family.

It is worth noting that just like so many of those childhood games we all played on our backyard fields, there are often not enough players to field a full team. Those who do get into the game will have to carry the burden for those who prefer to be in the stands, sit on their couch, or not even show up at all.

It is also worth noting that unlike so many of the sporting events we may have participated in over the years, or those we may have watched with great excitement, the outcome of this battle is not in question. The end of the story has already been written and, spoiler alert, the good guys win.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

So, you see, the outcome is not in doubt, the only question is what role each of us will play in bringing about that inevitable victory—and only we, individually, can decide what role that will be.

This entire reflection, of course, is about the work or prayer, and St. Paul has some advice for us on this matter.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

We might all pray this week that we find the courage to get in the game, perform to utmost of our ability, and know that we will then be able to fully rejoice in the victory which we know is ours.

God Bless

Copyright © 2019, Mark Danis

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