Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday: Sports or God? asks Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon
February 24th, 2013
Dominica II Quadragesimae, Anno C

During these forty days of Lent, we accompany Jesus to the Cross. Last week, we heard that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and was hungry. Then the devil tempted Him. Where else do we find this number 40? We find it with Noah, who built an ark which saved him and his family and the animals within while it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses ascended the mountain, Mount Sinai, where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in prayer for the sins of his people, and preparing to receive the Law from God. Then there is Elijah who journeyed “through the wilderness. On his way, an angel gave him to eat: and ‘strengthened by that food he went on for forty days and forty nights, when he reached God’s own mountain, Horeb’” (Danielou, The Lord of History, 260-261).

Elijah was then assumed into heaven. He did not die. The scriptures tell us that a chariot of fire came and swept him up into heaven. What about Moses? There is a rabbinic tradition that Moses was also assumed into heaven. The book of Deuteronomy tells us that his body was buried in the valley of the land of Moab but its tomb has not been found (cf. Deut 34:6).  The scriptures also tell us, in the epistle of St. Jude, that Michael the Archangel disputed with the devil over the body of Moses; not over his soul, but over his body. We do not know what the dispute was about.

“The common interpretation is that St. Michael conveyed the body of Moses out of the way, and from the knowledge of the Israelites, lest they should pay to it some idolatrous worship; whereas the devil, for that end, would have it buried, so that the people might know the place and adore it.” (Haydock, p. 1626, fn 9)

We see that temptation fulfilled here with St. Peter wanting to build a shrine, a tabernacle, on that spot for Moses and for Elijah. These two prophets were so highly revered by the Jewish people because they experienced a privileged intimacy with God that others were never given.

The Book of Deuteronomy tells us that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut 34:10). This is very important because God also told Moses that no man can see the Face of God and live (cf. Exod 33:20). But Moses looked upon the face of God. God spoke to him face to face. And now, Moses and Elijah appear speaking to God face to face, on the Mountain; Our Lord Jesus Christ is transfigured before them and they converse with Him. This scene serves as a fulfillment to a promise from Deuteronomy when Moses told the people: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you…him you shall hear” (Deut 18:15). God the Father tells us just that: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” Let us listen to Him through the teachings of the gospels. But let us not only listen to Him; let us obey Him.

Our Lord has commanded that we make holy the Lord’s day. The Lord’s day is Sunday. Every Sunday is the Lord’s day. The whole day Sunday is the Lord’s day. You should not work unless you have to. You should not go shopping on Sunday. You should not participate in school activities or school sports on Sundays. Let me repeat that: You should not participate in school activities or school sports on Sundays – any Sundays – but especially on Palm Sunday. I bring this up because Gervais High School is hosting the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament which is scheduled to take place on Palm Sunday and on Holy Saturday. This is not appropriate.

The Catholic Daughters were offered an opportunity to do some fundraising at this event, selling hotdogs. In considering the event, I became aware that it falls on a Friday of Lent, continues on Palm Sunday, and finishes on Holy Saturday. Needless to say, Catholics should not attend or support this event. Palm Sunday is not a time for a Basketball Tournament, Latino or otherwise. Holy Saturday is not a time for this type of activity either. Holy Saturday is a day for fasting and not for eating hot dogs. Holy Saturday is a day for praying and preparing for Easter the next day, not for playing basketball in a Youth Jam.  Furthermore, this event is going to be serving meat on the Friday of the event. Remember that the Church asks you to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays through the whole year and that it is a sin to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. If you eat meat on Fridays during Lent, you must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion again.

Now, if you are engaging in school sports on Sundays you need to make a choice. Will it be sports or God? You have six days to play sports. You have six days to work and make money. God only asks for one day. He not only asks but He has commanded it: Make Holy the Lord’s Day. The principle here is that we do not do anything on Sunday that would accomplish something. We sacrifice getting something done. We sacrifice to God the yield of a day’s labor on Sundays. We sacrifice getting things done. That includes doing homework, or doing anything to earn money. That includes physical labor even if it is a personal project around the house or the yard. Sunday is not a day to tear out a flowerbed in the back yard or to build a new shed.

On the other hand, Sunday is a day to enjoy your family. You can play a game of basketball with your brothers or your uncles, but it should be for fun and not to advance your team’s record. If it is a team that you play for, then you should not play on Sunday because you are accomplishing something, and by doing so you are working. Sunday is a day for rest, for leisure, for family, and most importantly for God. I am asking you to stand up to the schools. They do not dictate how you are live your faith. God dictates that. The schools schedule these events because people go along with them. As Catholics, we need to speak up. Our children will not be involved in such things on Sundays. Our children are not available on Sundays for anything outside of God and the family. If people would stand up to the public schools, things would change. Until very recently, it was unheard of that any school would schedule anything on a Sunday. The same went for Wednesday evenings. Wednesday evenings were reserved for church activities and catechism. Now, the parish is told that the children are not available on Wednesdays because they have sports. We are also told that the children are not available for church on Sundays because they have sports. Beloved in Christ, we have a choice to make. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. It belongs to him. He has a right to command us to cease our work for one day a week.

I realize that some of you are cheering inside because what I say today helps you in your struggles with your children. I received so many thank you’s from parents last night. But I also realize that some of you are shaking your fists at me. I am making life more difficult for you. But I am placing this choice before you because I respect you enough to tell you the truth. I respect you enough to provide you with the information you need to freely make a choice for or against God. And I know that this is a difficult choice placed before some of you. The Latino Basketball Tournament was the springboard for this sermon. But this applies to everyone whether you are Latino or not. I don’t bring this up in order to make your lives more difficult. I bring this up because I love you as your spiritual father in Jesus Christ. I care about your soul. I care so much that I am willing to stand up here and tell you this even when I know that some of you will reject what I have to say. I know that some of you may even go to another parish because the message there is easier.

Well, my dear ones in Christ, the way is narrow that leads to eternal life. There is no such thing as an easy Christian faith. If you want easy, go ahead. You can probably find a priest somewhere who will tell you whatever it is you want to hear. If not, you can make up your own religion and add to the 40,000+ splinters of the Christian faith that are already out there. I may not always tell you what you want to hear, but by now I think you know that I will speak the truth to you because I respect you. The truth will set you free. Jesus Christ is the Truth and He has said that the Truth will set you free. With freedom comes responsibility. We are free when we obey God’s law.

And so I ask you this day to commit to making Sundays a holy day every week. I also want to ask you to boycott the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament because the organizers have scheduled this event during the most holy time of the year for Catholics. Please do not participate in this event. I say this with love as your spiritual father because you are so precious to God and His commandments are the way to eternal life. Which way will you choose? Will it be sports or God? 


  1. Something that very much needed to be said. Thank you for posting this.

  2. Holy week? Of course not!

  3. He is, of course, absolutely correct. Yet I fear that he may get "slapped down" because undoubtedly some from his parish will complain to the Chancery that he is "insensitive" and out of touch. It would be really nice if the new Archbishop would make it clear fropm the outset that orthodoxy will be supported 100% and that complaints about correct statements from Priests are not real welcome.

  4. God bless Fr. Andersen for his forthrightness. Speaking the truth from the pulpit, imagine that. I wonder how many priests might agree with his view but also have the courage and wisdom to speak it from the pulpit. I also appreciated him acknowledging that many in the pews might be grumbling but he basically doesn't care. He's a priest and his primary role is the care of souls under his charge.

    On another note, that picture of Cardinal Dolan should be all the Cardinals at the Conclave need to see. It's certainly all I'd need to see of the then Archbishop Jovial-Pastoral-Everybody's Buddy Dolan. Good grief.

  5. LOL, Elizabeth! Yes, I didn't choose that photo of the Cardinal randomly!


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