Pray with the Pope: August 2016
Can we trust sports? General Intention: That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.
We certainly need to pray for professional sportsmen and women at the moment. Many sports have been so corrupted by the “root of all evil” that one hardly takes any of their results seriously any more.
Apart from causing the cancer of corruption, money empties all the fun out of sport. How can one enjoy a match, either as a player or a spectator, when you know that the outcome is already fixed? Or how can you even enjoy the action if you know that certain moves have already been carefully choreographed by crooked bookmakers?
We need to ask some serious questions about the nature of sport before we consider whether it can be made an instrument of God’s peace. A fundamental one is whether sport can be made into a commodity and, as it were, traded on the market.
Isn’t genuine sport’s true function precisely to lift us out of the mundane world of making a living? When we look at children’s games we see the true nature of sport which is a kind of ecstasy in the sheer delight and pleasure of play. Children don’t play in order to get rewarded; the play is its own reward. Even winning is unimportant.
Hence I would argue that when sport becomes just about earning a huge salary and big bonuses, it is no longer true sport. It becomes a means of employment, which is fine, but it should not be glorified with the name “sport”. And given the ridiculous sums of money involved in so-called “professional” sports these days, it’s no surprise that sport has moved from being a joy to being a job to being a criminal activity. What a day it was when Hansie Cronjé joined the ranks of the criminal confraternity.
All of which raises the question of whether anything which is money-maximising can make a contribution to peace? Can corrupt FIFA bring the nations of the world together in harmonious cooperation? Can the Tour de France cycling race?
If so it is only by the grace of God. We pray that in sport today, as the old saying goes, “Where sin abounds, grace may more abound”.
Living the Gospel
Missionary Intention: That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbour.
A colleague recently argued that there are interesting similarities between the Catholic Church and the governing party in South Africa.
He meant this in the sense that people continue to vote for the governing party despite its corruption and abuse of power. They do so out of a sense of loyalty in the same way many Catholics continue practising despite the manifest scandals in the Church — paedophile priests, the abuse of funds and the corruption of power.
People remain in the Church because it is and always has been a Church of sinners. In fact, it exists to do the Lord’s work of calling sinners to repentance and conversion. It is not a coterie of the perfect.
However, the conversion that Jesus seeks in the individual members has to be reflected in the whole body. It is precisely because the Lord calls individual sinful Christians — you and me — to conversion that the institutional Church needs to be semper reformanda, always in the process of reform.
This requires all the members to be open to the metanoia or radical change of direction that the Gospel demands. And at the same time the leadership of the Church has to initiate those institutional changes that will enable a collective metanoia.
Individual Christians therefore strive to live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbour while the leadership strives to create those spiritual, pastoral and canonical conditions within which the ordinary member can flourish and grow in Christ.
When we see the leadership humbly striving to do this, as I believe we are seeing it in the case of Pope Francis, then we feel more comfortable belonging to a Church of sinners.
May he feel the support of our prayers in his reforming efforts.