Each November, at the North American College in Rome, the seminarians engage in an epic battle known as the “Spaghetti Bowl.” This is a flag football game that pits the “New Men” – those who have just begun their time at the College – against the “old men” – basically everyone else. It’s a typical “David-versus-Goliath” clash, and the outcome is usually easy to guess.
In my second year at the College, the New Men came in with high hopes. They practiced regularly – almost every day. They had their own playbook, and even a mascot – Moses. The entire class really gelled and built up a nice fraternity, which I suppose is the goal of all that.
When the day of the event came, I was a “sportscaster” and presented the pregame show with another seminarian, certain that the new guys would be creamed as usual. But, we witnessed a rare sight: a New Man victory.
There’s a saying that on “any given Sunday” any team can win the game. This is true, because these athletes are trained and practice in order to perform at the top of their game. When one is better prepared or equipped, then that is usually the one that wins – regardless of record or what the “experts” might say. But it takes preparation; and preparation is not an accident.
Today, we begin our new homily series, which we are calling “Game Day.” Our focus will be how we live out the “game day” of our faith in action throughout our week. It’s one thing to say we have faith; it’s quite another to be prepared to put that faith into action; and yet another to truly act on our faith.
For us Christians, Sunday is not our only “Game Day.” It is, in fact, the Lord’s Day. But is this the case for us? Is Sunday a day given to the Lord, especially in order to prepare and equip us for the rest of the week? Is Sunday the first day of the week; or is it the last day of the weekend, when we try and get the most out of it for ourselves?
When we gather for Mass, we come together to celebrate what Vatican II called the “source and summit” of our faith. The Council Fathers wrote that
the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper (SC 10).
Therefore, Sunday is more than just “any given Sunday”; it is the Lord’s Day – the “day the Lord has made,” when we “rejoice and are glad.” Our presence here strengthens our faith and equips us to act on that faith when it counts – not just when we want it.
This was the difficulty for the rich man in Jesus’ parable today. He kept Lazarus at arm’s length his entire life. There’s no indication that he was not a man of faith. In fact, at the end, he even has the faith to call upon Abraham to help him in his wretched state. However, at that point it is too late. He was not prepared, and he suffered for it; because preparation is not an accident; it is a decision – a decision that the rich man did not make in his life. Now, in death, he finally notices Lazarus, and he sees his faith as a “quick fix” to ease his terrible situation. Rather than being nourished in his life by putting that faith into action where he could, he now sees it as simple something that is still meant to serve himself and not God and others.
How do we cultivate an appreciation of our faith and celebrate Sunday as the fortifying experience that it should be? How do we give the day to God and still celebrate it ourselves? In our culture, it is hard – these are the days of the “one-day sales,” of the almighty sports events, of cramming in our homework due on Monday. However, we can reclaim it.
There used to be a time when even the law protected the sanctity of Sunday. While these “blue laws” are no longer part of our secular culture, there is nothing stopping us from continuing to see Sunday as not only the first day of the week but as “the Lord’s Day,” given to us to rest and to recognize God’s power and presence in our lives.
Many families gather for the Sunday dinner as a way of at least gathering once a week together to share time with one another. Those of you who watch “Duck Dynasty” are, no doubt, impressed at the end as the Robertson’s gather at table and fist pray then share. Prayer before meals is often the first lesson in regular prayer that our little ones have, and it is a great idea!
I want to encourage you to seriously consider giving Sunday a chance to be the Lord’s Day in your family’s life. Turn off the computer, silence the cell phone and forget texting. Talk to one another, face to face, and share life with one another. A team that doesn’t communicate cannot win. As it is in sports, so too in our families. On any given Sunday we can see God as first in our lives. Why not today?