Friday, November 4, 2016

Cubs Win and Discipleship

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The Chicago Cubs finally have won the World Series and their fans are rejoicing. As I write this, hundreds of thousands of people are flooding the streets of downtown Chicago to continue in the merriment. The long wait is over ... blah, blah, blah.

Don't get me wrong. I am a Cubs Fan. I was 10 years old in 1984 when the Cubs fell in the NLCS against the San Diego Padres sending me to bed in tears. I followed them closely in 1989 when the San Francisco Giants topped the beloved. Together with all of Cubdom, I screamed at Steve Bartman in 2003 while the Florida Marlins stole another shot at glory from the hometown heroes. I know the pains of being a Cub fan and have enjoyed the success of my team.

I just wanted to share something that surprised me after the last out was made on Wednesday night. I didn't feel the overwhelming joy that I thought I was going to feel. As I remembered my father-in-law, a huge Cub fan who passed to his eternal rest in March, I shed a few tears, but I expected a transcendent emotional rush that never came. What I did feel was the same kind of comfort and elation that I feel when I receive the Lord in the Eucharist every time I am at Mass. 

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Then, looking at the thousands of fans cheering, singing "Go, Cubs, Go" and crying after the big victory, I realized that this rejoicing multitude was made up of souls who are already pre-discipled. They fully understand the mechanics of discipleship. Of course, many of them could already be fully active Christians, but as research would indicate, most of them are likely unchurched. 

As we look to make disciples of Jesus Christ and consider how to build bridges of trust we should use the latest big sports victory as an opportunity to point out that elated fans already understand what a religious experience feels like.

Consider the experiences of the exuberant sports fan and how they parallel religious practice.

1) Getting together to watch a game - at a bar (church) at Wrigley Field (cathedral)
2) Singing songs - "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", "Go Cubs Go", people will even sing the National Anthem and God Bless America (hymns)
3) Learning more about their team in the newspaper (Bible)
4) Knowing about the All-Stars and Hall of Famers from the past (Saints)
5) Attending rallies and parades (Pilgrimage)

Of course, the Cubs victory didn't bring joy to non fans, just like showing up to church doesn't automatically bring you to a state of ecstasy. It requires hours of watching games, trips to the ball park, and arguing about the best player and mistakes the manager made. The big win becomes even more savory if big losses weigh heavy on your heart and years of waiting create anticipation. 

I posted on my Facebook:

"The celebration is on.
Many of my friends wonder why I am religious.
My answer to Cubs fans: The joy that you felt after Kris Bryant made that third out was only a glimpse of the joy I feel when I go to Mass.
Sharing a common hope, suffering with fellow believers, and celebrating together are elements that make that kind of joy possible.
God created us with the capacity to feel His joy."

Next time you encounter a die-hard sports fan who sincerely questions you on why they should be religious, ask them to remember what it felt like when their team won the big game and invite them to come share that joy every week. Most sports fan has someone in their life that hooked them to their favorite team. Their father or mother, grandparent, uncle, best friend, or coach, someone made a difference. Can you be that person that hooks them on Christ? Pray for me, so that I can.

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