by Leon Suprenant
As a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, I have always been intrigued by the sign in the team’s locker room that says, “Play Like a Champion Today.”
An 18-year-old freshman may not be the next Joe Montana or Paul Hornung, but this is his day, not theirs. He hopes to be a worthy successor of those who went before him, and so he resolves to play his very best today. As he walks out onto the playing field, he touches the sign as if to say, “Amen.”
When my children were younger, our bedrooms were all upstairs, and at the base of the staircase I placed a sign that said, “Live Like a Saint Today.”
As we emerged from our rooms and began our day, we realized we were not a family of heroic saints, like St. Thérèse’s family. Yet this was our life, not theirs. We knew that God calls everybody without exception to become saints and that God created us for this moment in history. As we clambered down the stairs for breakfast, we would all enthusiastically hit the sign as if to say, “Amen.”
Heroic intentions are a great start, but they will only get us so far. There is another team trying to win! For the Notre Dame freshman, maybe it’s the USC Trojans. For followers of Christ, there is Satan and his “team” of demons.
Not only that, we’re not always the best “players” we can be because of the lingering effects of sin. Furthermore, perhaps at one time being a Christian in the world was more of a “home game,” but now it’s decidedly a road game played out in a most hostile environment.
Fortunately, there are some tried and true ways to prepare for the big game:
Know the playbook. How well do I know Scripture and the teachings of the church?
Practice. Am I trying to develop good habits and skills? We call them virtues.
Coaching and teamwork. Do I have a spiritual director or mentor? Do I seek out Christian friends who will support me and hold me accountable?
Game plan. Do I just walk out onto the “field” with a “whatever” approach, or am I intentional about making holiness a priority?
Pregame meal. Am I careful about what I put into my body (including music and images)? Above all, do I frequently and devotedly turn to the Eucharist as my principal source of nourishment?
Our life in Christ is much more than a game. It’s a vital relationship with the living God. But I think the Lord expects the same sort of effort from us. As St. Paul would say, “play so as to win” (see 1 Cor 9: 23-27).