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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Winning teams

Loyola of Chicago, a Jesuit school, just lost in the Final Four to Michigan. Then Villanova, an Augustinian school, beat Michigan. Two of the Final Four were Catholic schools, including the final winner.

Disclaimer: two weeks ago I did not even know those teams were playing. But throughout my life I have been tuned to events where Catholics have come out on top. Catholics are winners.

But the more I am steeped in the thought world of the New Testament, the more I realize that the followers of Jesus Christ did just fine without being winners. The didn't even come close to being winners until Constantine took their side in the 300s, and his action started us on a very unfortunate path, to where Christians thought they had to control everything: politics, religion, and everything in between.

So why do we think we need to be winners today?

I am thinking of the hand-wringing about the "loss" of so many Catholics to other religions or to no religion. Why do we have to hang onto the allegiance of every person who happened to be baptized Catholic? Answer: if we don't, we're losing.

But we don't need to win. Each one of us just has to be open to the Spirit in the time and place where God has situated us. So some of us go elsewhere. We are conditioned to see their decisions as indications of a failure on our part. We must be doing something wrong. We probably are, because we are unfinished in so many ways.

We can mourn the departure of friends to other religious places without the assumption that we have failed to control their decisions. God loves them as much as God loves us. God can be working in their decisions as much as God works in ours. We are not called to control or manipulate their decisions. We are called to be faithful to what God calls us to do, right here and now. Maybe our behavior will motivate others to join us, and maybe it won't. If we are doing our best to be open to God, hopefully we will find our way of approaching God good for us, and we will want others to share our way. But wanting is not controlling.

We do not need to be winners. just players.