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Trust the Biblical Playbook
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Jesuit historian James Hennessy (1926-2001) wrote that the Catholic Church was once described as bishops and priests and the faithful who followed the teachings of bishops and priests. The Vatican Two Ecumenical Council changed that. The people of God are the church.
Ideally 1.2 billion Catholics around the world are on the same team. All persons, including those who are ordained, are teammates willing to play together to defeat any philosophy, government or institution that practices prejudice and inequality.
By way of a popular example teamwork is essential in tonight’s 56th Super Bowl game. Coaches and players will be following their standard playbooks. They will also talk to one another during the event to make necessary adjustments. They might even change their game plans.
Our “biblical” playbook calls for teamwork in the game of life. Jeremiah the prophet (17:5-8) exhorted the leaders of Judah to trust in God. He said: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings.” He wanted his listeners to team up with God.
The elite tribal leaders did not listen and chose to do things their own way. Sadly, Judah was crushed and thrown into exile. In this episode there was not much teamwork between God and the chosen people of God.
We are called to learn the biblical play book to create a life giving game plan for ourselves and others. We are urged to use our talents and our ideas. As Christians we are coached by the Word of God. Win or lose, Jesus of Nazareth taught us how to play the game honestly, effectively, and with passion.
No one of us can win the game of life all alone. We need hardworking coaches and players on the team. In church terms we need smart pastoral leaders who will team up with the members of their dioceses, parishes, and schools.
In our religion, like other faith traditions, teamwork is essential if we are to win against the inequities of the world. We can turn the odds against those who do not play by the rules, mandates that are designed to give everyone a fair chance to win.
Today’s gospel (Luke 6: 17, 20-26) offers a different version of the familiar beatitudes; it can help us understand the biblical playbook. Instead of eight blessings, such as those in the gospel of Matthew (5:1-12), there are four blessings that are coupled with four afflictions. Those who are least fortunate are called blessed. Those who have plenty of power and wealth may not win every game. In the bible … underdogs can be victorious
New Testament scholar Sarah Henrich wrote: “These verses put today’s hearers on a level plain/playing field (v. 17) with all those to whom Jesus once spoke: the twelve, the crowd of disciples and the multitude from all over the area.” All the people of God make up creation and are responsible for sustaining it.
Sure, there are gifted superstar athletes who play better and are paid better than others. But in every “team” game each player on the field matters. A talented quarterback still needs a strong offensive line for pass protection. What makes the team successful is the way all the players communicate with and trust each other during the game. This is what the Catholic Church needs. More teamwork.
Last October 10, 2021 Pope Francis launched a synod on synodality to develop a play book for governing the church in the future. The word synodality comes from two Greek words — syn-hodos. It means walking on the same path together. It could mean playing on the same field together.
This unique synod is not just for bishops. It is an invitation to all members of the church worldwide to have a voice in the governance of the church. It is an opportunity for clergy and laity to listen to one another without being critical or defensive.
Lutheran pastor Katie Hines-Shah wrote: “… we are part of the priesthood of all believers, that whether or not we are ordained, we are called to do important, godly work.”
We want to win in life by following the game plan Jesus of Nazareth gave us. To do that we listen not only to the coaches, the church’s teachers, but also to one another, the players in the game, the people in our dioceses, parishes, schools, and a wide variety of ministerial groups.
The latest odds pick the Los Angeles Rams as a 4 point favorite to win the Super Bowl tonight. Can the underdog Cincinnati Bengals continue their miraculous winning ways? What are our chances of winning out over the injustices in the world? The odds are in our favor when we follow our biblical playbooks and play together as a team.
2/13/2022 09:51:06 am
Love the positive message. And the comments re the synod. I think we should take it seriously and speak up so that our voices will influence the governance and structure of our church.
2/13/2022 12:31:21 pm
I agree- we need to take seriously our voices as members of the larger church, and participate fully in this synod, even when at times we may feel that the odds are against our being heard. Just need to keep moving the ball forward!
2/13/2022 03:55:54 pm
As always,your comments on the gospels are well taken.This one in particular resonates with all that is happening in the world.Let's pray that Jeremiah's words will somehow be read, heard and followed by all leaders.
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