15th Sunday B - A Shorter Reflection

15th July 2018, 15th Ordinary Sunday, Year B. 
Amos 7:12-15 / Ephesians 1:3-14 / Mark 6:7-13

Some people say that football is an amazing game. For those of us who love to watch football or play the game, we will certainly agree.

But for some people, football is an amusing game. It is amusing because there are 22 people on a pitch chasing after a ball, and when the ball goes into the net, they will celebrate it by jumping all over each other, though some will despair.

But whether it is amazing or amusing, the World Cup 2018 will reach its climax with the final match tonight (15th July). It will be between France and Croatia, and one of them will lift the trophy as the World Cup champions.

Since last week when France and Croatia emerged as the finalists, the tagline is “France vs Croatia”.

Maybe it is just a manner of speech; it’s easier to say France vs Croatia than to say Croatia vs France, but maybe it also reveals who is the favourite and who is the underdog.

France is more well-known in every aspect, from French loaf to blue cheese, and even the national team is known as “Les Blues”. They have won the World Cup once, in 1998, a few other trophies.

On the other hand, Croatia, only after checking the map, then we know that it is a small country in central Europe.

They had no World Cup championship honours, and it is the first time that they are in the World Cup finals. Probably the only other thing is that most Croatian names end with “ic”. Just look at the names of the Croatian footballers and you will know what I mean:
Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Perišić, Nikola Kalinić, Mateo Kovačić, Danijel Subašić, etc.

And not just the footballers, the name of the coach also ends with “ic”. By the way his name is Zlatko Dalic.

Most of the time, football is about fame and fortune and religion has hardly any part in it. But with Z. Dalic, and maybe unintentionally, a bit of religion is put into the game.

Z. Dalic spoke about his faith on the Croatian Catholic radio when World Cup began. (85% of Croatia’s population is Catholic).

He said that his current success is due to his faith in God and that he always carries a rosary to hold on to in difficult times.

He said this: Everything I have in my life and in my profession and career, I owe it to my faith and I am grateful to my Lord.

He added: I am happy with my life, but without strong faith and that motivation, it would be very difficult to achieve it.

He continued: When a man loses hope, then he must depend on our merciful God and on our faith.

In a game that is often associated with popularity and money, it is quite rarely that we find an element of faith and religiosity.

But Z. Dalic is certainly not embarrassed about it nor is he silent about his faith in the game of football.

But that was also what Jesus summoned His disciples to do. He sent them forth giving them authority over unclean spirits and they set off to preach repentance. They cast out devils and cured the sick.

So repentance is about turning back to God, and repentance is about reclaiming our faith in the various aspects of life.

Because the excitement and the anxieties of life can have the power to subdue our faith and we just continue aimlessly in life without God and without faith.

So repentance is about reclaiming our faith in the midst of life so that God can manifest His presence through our faith and bring about healing and cleanse the world of evil.

Last week, the attention was on which football teams will reach the World Cup finals. But there was also attention on another football team, but it was how to reach them and rescue them.

The “Wild Boars” football team of 12 boys and their coach were trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand with rising flood waters, and that made it very difficult to rescue them.

But finally all were rescued. Thanks be to God. The coach said that in the midst of cold and hunger, he taught the boys meditation and that helped them to stay together with hope. Now, that is a religious dimension in the whole rescue operations.

And that might make us recall that in 2010, in the country of Chile, 33 miners were trapped for 69 days when the mine collapsed. They too prayed together, and the Pope then, Pope Benedict XVI sent them rosaries that he blessed.

Obstacles and impossibilities gave way to the power of prayer. The dates were also significant. The mine collapsed on 5th August, the day of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. Mary Major in Rome. The last miner was rescued on the 13th October, the anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. Again we saw the powerful religious dimension of faith in the rescue operation.

This dimension of faith in our ordinary life can be powerfully brought out by the act of repentance. Repentance is about turning back to God, repentance is about reclaiming our faith so that God can work wonders.

For the Croatian coach Z. Dalic, it may mean clutching his rosary for 90 minutes this evening. And that’s just for the World Cup.

We too, must clutch our rosaries and pray that God will bring about healing and cleansing for ourselves and for the world. That is what repentance is about, and it is a powerful religious dimension of faith, and our world needs to see it.   

(Fr. SY)