By Mr Jerry DeMelo, Jr OP
I grew up in Brazil, a Latin country where soccer was akin to a religion. Soccer is in my blood, and my childhood occurred at a time of unparalleled joy for Brazilians. Brazil’s first love was bearing fruit as the World Cup trophy was then lifted two times. It has since been lifted three more times.
Bear with me as I explore a soccer insight a bit further. A team is made up of 11 players, whose talents and assignments are necessarily different. A fullback exists to defend, while a left wing attacker, not only attacks but must have a gifted left foot. Of course, the game is won in the center of the field where defensive and offensive players meet for control.
A joy of the game must reside within each player. One can’t endure the strenuous training regime, physical conditioning and long schedule, apart from a true love of game. Yet, all of this joy must be channeled into a team effort which combined with others brings forth the exhilaration of victory.
It doesn’t stop with players. The reach of the team is not confined to the team or even family members. Fans play a significant part in the success of the team. Teams have a better record at home than when playing away. Home field advantage seems to be a statistic present in all competitive sports.
Finally, as to the Brazilian soccer team at least, the love for the Seleção (Brazilian National Team) goes beyond Brazilian borders. It has been my experience that love for the Seleção during the World Cup is global. Whether I am European, Guatemalan or Canadian—or anywhere else—when my National team is eliminated, I cheer for Brazil. Such is the reach of the love affair with Brazilian soccer.
Understanding soccer has helped me reflect a bit deeper into Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel (Lk 17:20-25). “The kingdom of God is entos hymon.” The kingdom of God is around you, or equally The Kingdom of God is within you.
Some understand that when Jesus said these words, He as God, was present among the people. This mirrors Ex 25:8, when God tabernacled among the Israelites. Others reflect that the Kingdom is truly within us.
An inner tabernacle where the Holy Spirit resides. (1 Cor 6:19). Ultimately, both statements are true. God is present among us and within us.
Together we are the Kingdom of God. Like participants on a soccer team, we can experience joy in victory provided we understand the role we ought to play. Our gifts must be coordinated with others, so that all can share in that same victory.
Fans? Oh Yes, Hebrews 12:1 informs us we are surrounded by a crowd of witnesses cheering us on as we run our race. Our reach, therefore, is not limited to our parish, diocese or Church – our reach is global.
Let us then embrace the joy Christ intended for us and using our gifts, defeat the enemies of the Kingdom of God.