As I write this on Tuesday 10th, Belgium is about to play France in the semi-finals of the Football World Cup, if they win and England beats Croatia tomorrow then come Sunday blood may be shed as Fr Alfred ( born and raised in Flanders) and I (born and raised in England) face off in support of our respective teams. All I can say is may the best team win but I already know which is best… ahem! Mind you what I have just written might be completely mute if the other semifinalists win!
This raises for me a concern about what is and is not healthy competition? Sports, any sport should be an event/activity that brings out the best in people both on and off the field of play. Good humored joshing and cheering is all part of it but sometimes fans can become too fanatical (almost to the point of religiosity) and we can see foolish outbursts between players and fans in any sport. Competition is part of life but it is wrong, I’d say always wrong, when it is just out to gain dominance over the other rather than making our joint experiences better. Domineering competition is destructive.
Our Gospel today shows that the disciples were not sent out singularly like gladiators into battle (tennis anyone…!) but in pairs to cooperate with each other in the mission of healing. Competition that does not bring us a real sense of development and, where needed, healing ends up being about power and not growth. Jesus calls us to work with him to foster the growth of the Kingdom he has established in his blood; note His not ours.
So when we say “may the best team win” we are not talking about a battle – a military term – but rather an engagement of mind, heart and body between players that raises the ability, courage, determination to succeed for the betterment of the game. Our game is The Kingdom of God and we work together to foster its growth for the betterment of all.
May God bless you, your families, and the week ahead,
Fr Aidan Peter