This is my body, which is given for you – Lk 22:19
As athletes, the concept of sacrificing one’s body for the good of the team, the game and the fans is not new. Everyone is expected to “take one for the team!” On the pitch, soccer players live this in a variety of ways. Soccer is sport that requires great endurance, strong bursts of speed and multiple changes of direction. The game is also very physical – soccer is a contact sport – so players must possess strength. There is shoving, pushing, pulling, strong tackles, slide tackles and no padding to protect the player. Soccer requires constant sacrifice.
These words of Jesus stated at the last supper hold profound and deep meaning on multiple levels. First, there is the very straight forward meaning, taken by most Christians, of Jesus sacrificing Himself on the cross for sinners. We say sacrificed himself because, as the Son of God, He clearly could have changed the outcome but that was not God’s purpose. He offered Himself on the cross to save all sinners and as a demonstration to us of how we should offer ourselves for the good of others. There is also the literal, and more profound, meaning taken in the context of the Last Supper. Catholic Chrisitans understand this to be the point at which Jesus transformed the bread and wine into His body and blood. Notice that the words state “this is my body” as opposed to “this represents” or “this is kinda like” my body. He then goes on to tell the apostles to “do this in memory of me.” He calls them to action! As Catholics, we do this every Sunday at mass in memory of Him when we celebrate the eucharist. At the same time, Jesus calls us to “do this in memory” of Him when we sacrifice ourselves for others.
Athletes are expected to offer up their bodies for their team and the fans for the good of the game. As Catholic Athletes For Christ state “when an athlete commits to a sport they make this pledge to their teammates, coaches and fans. An athlete offers his or her body and all that dwells within–mind, spirit and will–in sacrifice to better someone and something beyond themselves.” Jesus was the ulimate athelete. He understood that it’s all about service and sacrifice to others. We are called to do the same – serve and sacrifice for others. So train hard and play hard and recognize that, in doing so, you are giving glory to God by imitating the Son!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I dedicated you” – Jer 1:5
It is widely understood in what the world knows as football, or “The Beautiful Game,” that the most important touch on the ball is the first. The first touch sets the stage for everything that happens next. It prepares the ball to be dribbled, passed to a teammate or shot on goal. It determines if a team remains in possession or loses the ball. A player must know before the ball is received what he or she will do with it and must be open to receive – in a good position, the right space, proper body position. Finally, they must collect the ball in a manner appropriate to the decision they have made. The ability to do this successfully is frequently dependent upon the quality of the service, i.e. how well the ball is played to them from their teammate. And while the quality of service may sometimes be lacking and may require a little extra effort to “clean up”, in short, the first touch is all about preparing the ball.
The next most important touch in football is a player’s final touch. It’s delivering quality service to your teammates. It’s taking the shot on goal when the opportunity presents itself. It’s distributing the ball in a way that sets up your teammates to score. The ball must be played at the right time, with the right pace and to the right spot – space, feet or goal. In other words, the final touch is all about what you do with the ball.
Each one of us has been touched first by God’s grace in order to prepare us for fulfilling his will. This first touch sets the stage for everything that happens next. God’s grace prepares us to go out into the world and live for His glory. But unlike in football, God’s quality of service is always perfect. The ball is always exactly where it needs to be. So the question becomes how prepared are we to receive it? How good is our first touch? Are we in the right place at the right time? Are we open to receive? With God, all we have to do is be open to receive. He will take care of the rest. But, what do we do with it once we receive it? Simple. Do something positive – dribble, pass, or shoot.
Dribble – Hang on to God’s grace and the strength that it brings to your life. Spend time alone with Him and truly, you’ll never walk alone.
Pass – Provide quality service to your teammates in life. Set them up to score. Enrich their life by sharing the joy of God’s grace within you.
Shoot– Take your shots in life when the windows of opportunity open. Let God’s grace lead you to victory and then glorify Him when you score.
“The Beautiful Game” is dynamic and constantly in motion.
Get open and have a quality first touch!