|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in San Jose and a Vicar General
of the Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 20, 2015
“Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.” This quote is most often attributed to Vince Lombardi, one of the great NFL coaches of all time. However, UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders used it first in 1950 at a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo physical education event. In some ways, it epitomizes modern-day sports; we are consumed with winning at all costs.
This attitude has also crept into junior sports in schools and in universities, where winning is everything. There is an imbalance in that approach and intuitively the coaches of our schools’ teams are beginning to get it. It is getting a little too competitive and unhealthy.
However, there is also a counter swing and now we want participation trophies for everyone. We say, “Well done; you didn’t win but you showed up for the whole season so here is a participation award.” Sometimes these awards are bigger than trophies. Wow. That is going to the other extreme.
Mother Theresa had a great way of looking at discipleship. She said, “In the end, God will not judge us on our success. God will judge us on how faithful we were.” So it is about the journey. It is about what we are committed to, not on how well we have done. St. John of the Cross put it another way, “In the evening of our lives, we will be judged on not how well we have lived but on how well we have loved.”
One theme from scriptures this Sunday that should capture our attention, the phrase, “be gentle with one another.” Jesus says it is not about being first. In fact, he turns it upside down and says it is about being last. Then he gives a specific example of what he means by being servant of all. He takes a child and puts the child in his midst. He uses that same word of “gentleness.” One has to receive a child. Why? Because they are vulnerable; they are small; they can be hurt very easily. We are called to receive each other gently and lovingly. Even the toughest man will take a little child and will cradle them instinctively, knowing that this little child is frail and vulnerable. He would never, ever rough it up. That would be inhuman.
How gentle are we with each other? When our spouse or our significant other does something really silly, how gentle were we with them? Did we set loose at them with violent words? I am sometimes shocked with how unkind couples can be to each other or with their children.
Remember, it is not about winning. It is about being a servant. It is about being loving and gentle with one another. That is the way Christ has called us to serve. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Be gentle.