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Can you smell it? Football is in the air! This week is the beginning of the NFL training camp, which means that very soon we will be back on the couch cheering the Chiefs all the way to Super Bowl 50 (I have to admit that I am not happy about the loss of the Roman Numerals for the Super Bowl). Here in America we love our sports; we love professional, semi-pro, college and high school sports. We carve out hours of our time every week and travel all over the country to watch our team compete, we spend over 25 billion dollars every year on professional sports alone— because there is nothing quite like the feeling of victory. I am a little embarrassed at how excited I became when I realized that the first pre-season NFL game is just over a week away. In my excitement it dawned on me that rarely do I have that kind of excitement and anticipation for things of God, and I began to question my priorities.

In the Bible, in the second book of Maccabees, it says that when the Greeks conquered the Jews they wanted to turn the Jews away from the worship of the one true God.  The Greeks tried all sorts of things in order to persuade the Jews to abandon the worship of the LORD: threats, torture, death, promises of wealth and prosperity, but the Jews still remained faithful to God. Finally, the Greeks built a gymnasium and invited the Jews to take part in their games and sports and it was not long before they began to abandon their faith: “disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened, at the signal for the games, to take part in the unlawful exercises at the arena” (2 Mac 4:14). It is amazing that the powerful attraction of sports was able to break-down their faith in a way that not even the fear of death could do.

Don’t get me wrong, sports are a great thing; there are so many benefits to sports and this October I will be at the edge of my seat watching the Royals, but I wonder: how often do we make sports more important in our lives than God? Would we be willing to drive hundreds of miles in order to attend Mass? We encourage our kids to hit the gym and practice for hours every day so that they can be the best, but do we teach them to spend even 15 minutes a day visiting Jesus in the Eucharist, or reading Scripture, or praying the Rosary? What are we teaching our kids when we skip Mass on the weekend in order to attend an out-of-town game? We invest so much time, money and energy into sports—I wonder what would happen if we gave God the same kind of devotion.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis Hecker

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