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Do you love Jesus more than soccer?

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What soccer aficionado doesn’t relish rocking a game-winning shot from outside the box to the upper corner? Talk about an adrenaline rush.


And how does that compare with St. Paul’s description of heaven as the perpetual praising of God’s glory?


I’ve played and watched soccer my whole life, and thankfully get to continue now in seminary. But of all the activities I think we will do in heaven, soccer seems lower on the list. If today we are supposed to prepare for heaven, then how does soccer fit in the picture of the Christian life? I do not think that the two are necessarily opposed, or that Christians should stop watching Fox Soccer Channel — but if a less important activity takes priority over a more important one, we should review our life.


In my youth, I learned the virtues of perseverance, discipline and fraternal charity from playing soccer. The sport taught me exercising these virtues was good, not just because coach said so, but because I could enjoy their fruits. I still practice these virtues today in seminary and I am better for the lessons learned on the field.


I also learned that how you practice will be how you play in the game. At seminary we have a phrase, “As the seminarian, so the priest.” The virtues and life I live and practice at seminary will be how I live as a priest. So, if I am lazy and angry now, I will likely be lazy and angry as a priest. Likewise, if I am patient and charitable now, I will be patient and charitable as a priest. We can even apply the same idea to eternal life; if we practice the virtues and activities of heaven now, we will be prepared for heaven. 


What you do in your life today will affect your eternal life. If you value another activity, such as sports, over encountering our loving God at Sunday Mass, then why would heaven be any different? Wouldn’t you be occupying yourself with other things rather than living in eternal peace with the God who created you? What you let distance yourself from God now will be what distances you from God for eternity.


At the same time, sports and the Christian life can complement each other deeply, and we can become holy doing the things we love. The adrenaline rush of that game-winning shot becomes a springboard to contemplate Christ’s victory over death, or the angels’ joy and excitement over the Incarnation or resurrection. Our lived experiences here on earth are our means of sanctification; we just can’t let them become more absorbing than the eternal goal.


Renner, from Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, is in his second year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019