Is anyone here rooting for the Ravens this Sunday? I thought so! I would point out that since I became Archbishop of Baltimore almost 10 months ago, the Orioles got to the playoffs for the first time in years and now the Ravens are in the Super Bowl.
Let’s think a little bit about the Ravens this morning. What will it take for them to win? The answer, of course, is teamwork. If every member of the team did his own thing, no matter what was decided in the huddle, then we could be sure that the 49ers would roll over us. But if the coach and the team are intent not just on victory but on a unified strategy as the game unfolds, each one wanting the same things and each one rejecting the same things, then there is a greater chance the Ravens will win. In other words, there has to be a strong sense of team spirit for each player to achieve the victory he desires.
II. The Team
We’re part of a team too, it’s called the Church. God the Father is the Owner, Christ his Son is the Coach, the Holy Spirit is the one who inspires in us team spirit.
As we heard in the first reading from the Letter to Hebrews, there’s no dispute between the Owner and the Coach. They are completely on the same page. The author of that letter makes clear that Jesus came into the world to do the Father’s will, namely, to form a team to lead it to victory. Jesus says to His Father, “Behold, I come to do your will.” In another place Jesus says, “My teaching is not mine, it is His who sent me.” So there’s no question, the Owner and the Coach are on the same page.
But that’s not the hard part. The hard part is keeping a team together, especially a team that will be playing until the end of time, and is made up over time of billions and billions of members. Like a football team, this team we call the Church has positions, the Pope, bishops, priests, religious women and men, married couples, and others. Over the last 2000 years this team has not always had a winning season but the Holy Spirit has inspired confidence in the Coach, in Jesus, and in the quarterback that Jesus appointed, namely, the Apostle Peter. “You are Peter, Jesus said, and on this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (the gate of hell are like the 49ers).
Peter and successors may have fumbled but we’ve always recovered it and we never had a turnover. But sometimes the Coach has difficulty with individual players, like you and me. Sometimes, we just want go off and do our own thing. We often don’t show up for training – daily prayer, Sunday Mass, regular use of Confession, and soul building, viz., by growing in all the moral virtues. The Coach and the Quarterback may ask us to go long, to head to the end zone, to catch a Hail Mary pass, by accepting our vocation in life or by performing some service of charity for others, but so often we find ourselves dawdling on the sidelines, calling our own private time out from God and all He wants for us, while the other team, the team that really wants to defeat for good, marches down the field with relentless determination.
III. What It Takes to Win
If we want to win, that is to say, to achieve happiness in this life and eternal happiness in the life to come, then we have to want what the Owner wants. And what the Owner wants the Coach wants. The Holy Spirit inspires us to want the same thing as the Owner and Coach as well as to reject what the Owner and the Coach reject. In other words, we have to get on the team. “Who are my father and mother, my brother and my sister,” Jesus says to us today, “but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father?”
Every team has a victory chant and so do we. It’s called the Our Father and I hope you say it every day. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven … ” in other words, we pray to the Owner that Christ’s will be done in us and thru us every day.
The immortal Dante wrote, “In his will is our peace.” And I might dare to add, “In his will is our victory.”
May God bless us and keep us always in his love.