John 3:16

Brothers and Sisters,

I remember that while I was growing up I was also becoming an ever bigger fan of sports.  When I was small, my parents gave me two basketball jerseys:  Michigan and UCLA.  I wasn’t a fan of the schools before I had the jerseys – truth be told I had not even heard of them before; however, you can bet your last schilling that I become a huge fan of both teams as soon as I received these gifts.  Whether the sport was football, basketball, or anything else, I would cheer for Michigan and UCLA.

Eventually I outgrew these jerseys and started looking to other teams.  While watching as many professional and collegiate games as my parents would allow, I recall occasionally seeing fans in the various stadia holding signs for all sorts of things:  d-fence, hi mom, circle me Bert, and so forth.  On rare occasions, I also saw fans holding signs that read:  John 3:16.

A Bible verse!  In public!  On television!  I got very excited and looked it up – I fully expected it to be something related to sports or victory.  However, I found not a sports metaphor or a clever quip.  Do you have the verse memorized?  You’ll remember it:  for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.

I was dumbfounded.  What was that verse doing at a football game?  Sure it’s true, I thought.  It’s a fact and an important awareness but hardly related to sports . . . or so I thought.  You see, it’s easy to get excited about your personal interests.  For me, that’s sports – for others it may be building something, a project, a craft, or any number of hobbies from books to mountaineering.  In any case:  is the Holy Faith more or less a part of your life than your favorite thing?

That is why fans have brought signs with the verse John 3:16 to all sorts of games.  A shrine to football like the still new Vikings stadium or a temple to the arts like Radio City Music Hall in New York are nothing compared to Heaven.  So the question is whether we treat them as if they themselves are our heaven.  Do I act like football is more to be than Mass?  Do I treat March Madness (or whatever my personal favorite events are) as if prayer and good works can take a back seat?

Lent is half gone.  Don’t waste any time in the second half; make sure you’re a fan of Jesus Christ.

God be near,

Father Jeremy