Ice Hockey Catholics

2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle C
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18, Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14, Phil 3:17—4:1, Gospel: Lk 9:28b-36

Ice Hockey
This past year I have come to appreciate Ice Hockey. Part of the reason why is my brother and his neighbor built an ice rink in their front yards. It stretches from driveway to driveway and is truly a marvel to behold. Recently, I had the opportunity to play some hockey with my nieces and nephews in my hiking boots (I don’t have ice-skates – they would be too big and I would be too tall). I have come to admire the skill of the that the athletes have in the Vancouver Olympics. In fact, today the players are playing to see who will win the Gold or Silver medals in the Winter Olympics.

Gold Medal Hockey Player
What does it take to be a Gold Medal Hockey player? You need to be able to skate well, use a Hockey stick to move the puck, to work as a team and to practice, practice, practice. Being part of a Hockey team means that you need to live a life of practice, sacrifice and gratitude. Being on an Olympic Hockey team means that you need to live, practice and play with the team, you listen to the coach and try to follow his directions and encouragement.

The Church is the Hockey Team
The Church is a lot like a Hockey Team, we have adopted a similar way of life – Practice, Sacrifice, and Gratitude. I know you didn’t imagine yourselves as Holy Hockey Players, but that is indeed what we are, and Lent is our time for practice.

Listen Up!
During Lent we practice the core spiritual disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving. We do this so that we can become better Christians, and grow closer in our relationship with God. Today I want to reflect with you about the spiritual discipline of Prayer, think of ourselves as members of the St. Anthony’s Avalanche, and I’m the assistant coach – so listen up!

Time to get serious about the Game
One of the ways that the Church and the Hockey team is alike is that we both have there is a coach and a team. Jesus is the coach and we are all on the team. We come to Mass on Sunday to hear what the Coach has to say, to be encouraged and to pray with one another so that when we get into the game [[Out there]] we can play hard and score goals. Lent is a time where we are called to get a little more serious about our game.

Love the Game – Guard the Puck
The first thing you will notice about hockey players is that they love the game, they love skating on the ice, competing and playing well. In order to do that they need to know the game, study it and become good at it. In order to win at the game of Hockey you need to be able to move the puck down the ice and slip it speedily past the goal keeper at the right moment.

Share the Love of Christ
For Christians, the puck is sharing the love of Christ. We treasure it and guard it as we skate through life in relationship with our family and friends, and when the moment is right, we take a shot to sneak it past the devil and into their hearts. When God sees a person falling in love with Him he is very happy – we scored a goal.

Move the Puck down the Ice
But how do we move the puck down the ice? I want you to imagine that this hockey puck is your love for God, that he gave you in Baptism. He also gave you this hockey stick, to guard the puck from the opposing team, and to shoot goals with. In our lives, this puck and stick are represented by our life of prayer. If we don’t make it a point to pray in our lives, then how can we be ready to shoot when the goal is open? How will we see that the goal is open, and hear the coach yelling at us – “Shoot!”?

Time for Prayer
For most of us talking to God is easy, but making time to do it requries a little bit of discipline. I would encourage you to set aside a little extra time this Lent for prayer, either in the morning or the evening – whenever you are most awake and alert. Set your timer for 10 minutes and spend that time sharing your day with God and listening to what he has to say.

Sharing your life with Christ
Talking to God is the easy part, Listening is a little more challenging. If we have the habit of sharing our day with God in prayer, then we can spend some time each day quietly thinking over what has happened. Imagine yourself sitting down at the kitchen table with Him at the end of a busy day and sharing with Him what went on. Begin with a simple sign of the Cross, and a short prayer to call yourself into God’s presence. After that just talk over your day with Jesus and ask Him to point out where in your life He helped you – to avoid temptation, or he used you to show someone his love.

How to handle the tough days
Sometimes we struggle to see that God was working in our life at all on a particular day – often times those can be the worst of days. Maybe you are drawing a blank on this right now. We can find some encouragement in the first reading today. In the First Reading God makes his first covenant with Abram – who become Abraham – the Father of Faith.

Your life is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham
Abraham is the Father of Faith because he believed that God would do as he promised. But Abraham’s faith is not a blind faith, but rather a faith that is rooted in his daily relationship with Christ. It is also a reasoned faith. When God promises Abraham to have more descendants than the stars, Abraham’s response isn’t “Ok – if you say so” – but “How does that work out?” He has the response of reason. We too would do well to imitate Abraham’s relationship with God. How do we know that God fulfilled Abraham’s promise. Today there are about 2 billion Christians, and all of us trace our spiritual roots to Abraham. We are proof that God has fulfilled his blessing to Abraham. Take that as the first step towards sharing with God how he has used you to share his blessing with someone else this evening when you sit down to evaluate your faith. Our lives are not just the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, but much more, we just need to open our eyes to see the many ways that he blesses us.

The Lord is my LIGHT and my SALVATION
The Psalm today says that “The Lord is my light and my Salvation – In Him I trust”. When we come to the end of our day today we will have the opportunity to sit down with Christ and ask the question – How did God illumine my life today? How did he open my eyes to see the world a little bit more through his eyes? Who did I meet that Christ called me to love? To care for? To Listen to. The other half of this expression also applies. The Lord is my salvation in whom I trust. When did I recognize my need for God to save me? To help me? Did I put my trust in Him or did I try to solve it all myself?

The Saints – Hockey Hero’s
Every hockey player has hero’s guys they look up to and aspire to be like. St. Paul reminds us of that when he says – “Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ”. If we want to be good players on the St. Anthony’s Avalanche we will need to set for ourselves good role models of players who know how to skate well, and listen to the coach.

Know what it will be like on the medal stand
Finally, we come to the Gospel, where Christ, knowing that there are difficult times ahead takes his closest friends, Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain to share with them the Glory that he had with the Father before he was born. Jesus is taking us to the medal stands, so we can see and know what a Gold Medal is like – he want’s to inspire us to keep on skating hard, so that we can be with him when the match is over.

Will we hear the Lord when he says – Take the shot!
The readings today encourage us to get on our game and play for the goal. This week Christ will show us an opportunity to score a goal – We don’t know when, or where, or who, but someone this week will need us to be a Christian, and to share with them the Love that God has shared with us. When that moment comes this week will your “spiritual ears” be open to hear Jesus encouraging us “Shoot for the goal!”?


Right Way / Wrong Way

Feast of St. Scholastica
1 Kgs 10:1-10; Psalm: 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40; Gospel: Mk 7:14-23

Right Way
In the first reading today we hear from the queen of Sheba as she extols the fruit of wisdom that she sees growing in Solomon’s kingdom. All of this fruit comes from a kingdom that is clearly going the right way - towards God. The Church gives this reading to us today to encourage us as we battle sin and deceit in our own lives.

Wrong Way
In the Gospel Christ points out the wrong way that many of us follow. We like to blame our actions on external things. Christ reminds us that we often choose to live the wrong-way which is why there is so much suffering in this world. Christ challenges us to grow in wisdom by examining our own lives, and asking ourselves the question – what is broken? Where do I need to change? What is it in my belief, my actions that gives strength to my sin? Where do I need to repent?


St. Scholastica and St. Benedict
Today is the feast of St. Scholastica who is the twin sister of St. Benedict. Scholastica and Benedict are credited with bringing the monastic life to the Western Church in the 5th century. Benedict learned monasticism from the Monks in the desert in Egypt and brought it West. He led a Monastery and his Sister Scholastica lived in a convent across the valley. Both lived simple lives centered in prayer and rounded out with work and community life.

Monastic Life = life of prayer
The goal of the Monastic life is to surrender ourselves to a simple life of work and prayer, in Latin “Ora et Labora”. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit with some Benedictine nuns at Walberga Abbey near Laramie, Wyoming. We began our day with prayer at 4:50, and then throughout the day we would obey the Abbey bell calling us to pray together with and for the world. At the heart of Monastic life is introspection on the Gospel. In allowing the light of Christ to penetrate my heart and cast its brightness into the dark recesses of my soul, so that you and I can see the roots of the sin in our lives, and then, with the grace of God make amends and seek to be healed.

If we pursue prayer seriously then our sin comes to light
The reason for Prayer, Work and Community is that these three fundamentals of human existence provide us with the opportunity to encounter Christ in prayer, to reflect with Christ in our work, and to share Christ in our community. It is in these three settings – centered on Christ, that we come to understand more and more deeply the source of sin and grace in our lives. It is the constant relationship with Christ in prayer that allows us to be healed, and allows our life to become progressively more and more fruitful.

But Deacon – We’re not Nun’s (for the most part) or Monks either!
The reason why I bring this up is not that we all run off to the Abbey or the Monastery and become Monks and Nuns (unless God is calling us to that) – but that we take a moment and reflect on our own lives of prayer, work and community. Take this next moment and ask the Lord to show you how to better structure your life.