Friday, December 31, 2021

Faith Is A Team Sport

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus told them to say, “My Father, who art in Heaven….Give me this day my daily bread, and forgive me my trespasses.”

No wait, that’s not right. Jesus told them to say, “Our Father….give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.”
Did you notice the difference? Jesus wants His followers to pray together. This is because faith is a team sport. We simply cannot do this successfully on our own. We need each other. Believers are like burning logs in a campfire. If you stack up the logs so they’re leaning against each other, you get a roaring fire. But if you separate the burning logs and lay them down on the dirt away from each other, very quickly the fire goes out and they grow cold.

It’s the same when people try to practice their faith on their own. We have a lot of “Lone Rangers” in our parishes nowadays. Or I should say, NOT in our parishes nowadays, because they never bother coming to church. Maybe you know some people like this? They claim they believe in God and accept the teachings of the Gospel, but they prefer to do it by themselves. They say they can feel close to God by taking a walk through the woods or by watching a gorgeous sunset. Well sure, that’s true. There’s nothing like a quiet walk through the woods or a gorgeous sunset to remind us of God’s amazing creative powers.

But that can’t be a person’s entire faith experience. We need each other. Sometimes our Lone Ranger friends say they no longer go to Mass because “the church is full of hypocrites.” Well, yeah! The church IS full of hypocrites. Do you want to know why? Because we’re ALL sinners.
I once heard a guy say the more time he spends with other people, the more he likes his dogs. Other people can be very exasperating at times. (Although it seems the folks who complain the most about other people are actually the ones who are the most exasperating.)

The church never claimed to be a private club only for perfect people. The church is, as Pope Francis said, more like a field hospital during a war that treats the sick and wounded. Yes, we’re all sinners and yes, we’re all hypocrites, but despite that, we still need each other. We can’t hope to grow in our faith and get healed if we don’t do it together.

If you find a parish filled only with perfect people, by all means join it. But just know, the minute you join, it won’t be perfect anymore.

Our Lone Ranger friends and loved ones may think they’re living out their faith life just fine on their own, but like the campfire log lying on the dirt away from the other logs, the fire eventually goes out and it grows cold. It’s impossible to live a vibrant and meaningful faith life on our own. We need each other, warts and all.

In the letter to the Hebrews in the Bible, it says, “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but (we should) encourage one another” (Heb 10:25).

Also, if you don’t go to Mass you can’t partake of the “source and summit of the Christian life,” the Eucharist (Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1324).

Jesus wants us to be in a relationship with Him, and He tells us in order to do it, we also need to be in relationships with our fellow parishioners. So let’s save all the Lone Ranger stuff for old black and white TV shows. Faith is a team sport. 

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