Tomorrow is Sunday, and in the United States, that has come to mean one thing: Football. Now, don't get me wrong - I enjoy Sunday football as much as anyone. But it's not a priority. Getting everyone to Mass and paying God the minimal homage He asks of is what drives the day. I try to refrain from food shopping and household tasks and to make it truly a day of rest and relaxation spent with the family. I would never think to skip the Noon TLM for an earlier Mass in order to catch a 1pm opening kick-off.
Turn on the television, listen to the radio or read the papers and you might think the nation was preparing for war every week. In a sense, it is. Football is a human demolition derby predicated on military strategies to advance in enemy territory. Since each team generally plays only 1 game per week, there is ample time to analyze what went wrong and what must be done to improve. Players are criticized, called out and scrutinized to an extent I certainly hope I would never have to endure at work each day. Then again, I don't get paid millions of dollars or subject my body, a temple of God, to punishment.
You will hear no such talk on Sunday about how to advance against the enemy of our souls to gain ground on our journey to Heaven. People will wear their football jerseys to Mass ( at the Novus Ordo, that is, I've never seen it happen at the TLM), skip out early or not bother to go at all if there is a game at stake.
Now, I will also admit to you that not only do I love watching football, but I can get rather emotional in rooting for my Cowboys. When they went to the playoffs against the NY Giants a few years back, I actually considered praying to St. Therese to help them win, but I just couldn't. When there are so many poor souls in need, even though I know God's generosity is boundless, I can not bring myself to pray in any sincerity for a pass not to get intercepted or for the kicker to make a 58-yard field goal. Nor would I pray to win the lottery or hit the jackpot at a casino. These are all frivolous activities that we enjoy and I think that would be ok if we didn't make them the be all, end all of our existence.
How many Catholics with seasons' tickets for an NFL team spend an iota of what they do on football to support their church? The Phillies have had something like 150 or so consecutive sellouts. Nothing wrong with watching baseball. But how many Catholics who plunk down $120 for two good seats at the Park would even thing about putting that much in a special collection to support their church or a mission? From the number of closings and churches in need of repair, I'd say not too many.
When is the last time you heard any of this mentioned in a sermon? Maybe the last time you heard your pastor talk about the devil or going to hell. There would be no need to talk about our obsession with sports at the TLM because the regulars who commit to a 90-minute or so Mass on Sundays are the choir. At the Novus Ordo, it's another story because there you would be more likely to encounter some folks who don't have their priorities straight.
I don't believe that God expects us to wear sack cloth and ash and spend our entire lives in a state of penance. But the flip side is that we are expected to keep the Sabbath holy and devote adequate time to prayer, penance and good works. Despite what some would like to think, we can't just do some of what is asked of us and ignore the rest. The "but I'm a good person, I don't hurt anyone" is not going to fly when when a strong defense is needed most.
It will take more than a good defense to gain entrance into Heaven. Daily Mass whenever possible, commitment to a strong prayer life and frequent confession are the minimal armor a warrior needs to do battle and make progress. Too bad not many will be reminded of this on Sunday, either because they couldn't be bothered to go to Mass or because the priest couldn't be bothered to discuss Heaven and Hell.