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by Fr. Joe Landi, Editor of the San Francisco Charismatics
CContact Fr. Landi at email@example.com
Dear Diary...children at a young age look differently than adults at the world around them in terms of what is good, right, or just. A child's view is more simplified than that of most adults. They haven't reached the point that too many of us adults have when we proportion- alize right or wrong--sometimes only with respect to the magnitude the right or wrong has upon us. (This month's article is continued below.)
|Out of the World and Into the Kingdom--Fr. Joe Landi's journey to priesthood by Rissa Singson||Fr. Joe Landi|
Children look at things differently because children are decent. One of the joys of my ministry is talking about religion with the 1st, 3rd and 5th grade classes at our parochial school. It is the best of all possible worlds for me. Not only are they always on their best behavior, but their responses show me they accept God with a simplicity of vision that too many adults have lost, believing in His goodness, without the doubts that cloud God's presence to some adults. More importantly, it seems that I never visit a class where I haven't learned something, too. It seems that I always come away from a classroom with the freshness of seeing God's love through their humble eyes. There is a decency in that. It is what Jesus must have in mind when he tells us to humble ourselves and "become like children" in relation to God as the condition for entering the kingdom." [Mt 18:3-4]
Tim Keown, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle's Sporting Green last fall, reminded me of how decency matters. Sammy Sosa was selected over Mark McGwire as the National League's Most Valuable Player "because he had a tremendous season and conducted himself like a gentleman while doing it. It's a triumph for decency; a triumph for civility. In the era of mega-millionaire ballplayers and the cynical fans who try to love them, this is an unmistakable sign that public image and public behavior do matter."
Most everyone knows that it was a remarkable season. McGwire must have been on the front page of every newspaper and talked about on every radio and TV newscast. Maybe not a topic for everyone, but the remarkable batting records attained by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire who hit 70 homers to Sosa's 66, certainly was the topic of conversation of every sports fan. While McGwire got all the press coverage, it was Sosa who was selected MVP perhaps because as Keown reported, "He wasn't the man who set the awesome single-season record. The winner was the man whose cumulative accomplishments were deemed to be superior."
One thing stands out about Sosa is his commitment to helping others. A few days after receiving the MVP award, he was back in his homeland in the Dominican Republic where he has been heavily involved in helping the country recover from Hurricane George. His charitable foundation has been involved in distributing food in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, where he received the public appreciation of his Bishop.
We admire those who give of their time, talent, and treasure to help others. We admire especially sports heroes who do that because many ignore the rest of the world. As Keown puts it, those who "ignore the fans, shun the media and treat the rest of the world (the lesser world, in their estimation) with disdain."
We admire sports heroes who work for the common good because it shows us not only that they are decent people, but they are following the commandment Jesus gave us to love God and to love one's neighbor. Loving our neighbor is an absolute requirement for a Christian. The rewards are immediate as well as providing everlasting retirement benefits. For example, The Hall of Fame center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who gets $1 a year as an assistant coach at Alchesay (Ariz.) High, sums the reward benefits succinctly when asked what he likes about his high paying job. He replied, "It gives me such a great feeling." Abdul-Jabbars coaching approach mirrors that of his UCLA mentor, John Wooden, as well as the late Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi. As reported by sports writers, these are all decent men playing games where decency still counts for decent fans.
To love one's neighbor does not mean that we must love them emotionally nor that we must be gooey sentimental about them, for Jesus commands us to love even our enemies (Mt. 5:44). To love our neighbor means that we must wish for them the same good that we wish for ourselves. Moreover, to love our neighbor means that we must do all that we can with them to obtain that good for them. Love of neighbor is an infallible test of our love of God. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar, for whoever does not love a brother that he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." Words to live by from a very decent man as reported by John (1 John 4:20).
Fr. Joe Landi is a Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco, the Archbishops Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, the editor of the San Francisco Charismatics and Board Chair of the Sierra Point credit Union, South San Francisco, which now serves the South San Francisco Community, parochial schools in San Mateo County, and the Charismatic Renewal. Opinions expressed are his own.
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