Tag Archives: Faith

Pride and Patience: the Spoils of Victory

If God likes the game of soccer, then he would probably be pleased with Team Germany. That isn’t to say he would be picking sides in the World Cup, of course. How could he? After all, Pope Francis and more than 90% of all Argentinians have a long tradition anchored in the Catholic faith. But there is a lot about the team spirit in Germany to be proud of today.

As Pope Francis tweeted this weekend:

Pope Tweets on the World Cup.

Far different from the battlefields of war, ethnic tension and interfaith conflict, soccer fans from around the globe come together in events like the World Cup to put differences behind themselves and engage each other in a friendly and sporting environment.

Since World War II, Germany has risen to the challenge and taken the World Cup four times. On the current occasion and faced with the daunting task of defeating Brazil in the semi-finals, Germany did so with confidence and humility. In the routing the Cup’s host country 7:1, Team Germany went out of it’s way to show grace toward Brazil both in the media and on the playing field. Now that it has won the championship by defeating Argentina 1:0, Germany has earned the right to be proud of it’s accomplishment. The spirit of the World Cup would be best served if that national pride is now used to further encourage the values of fairness, inclusion and sportsmanlike behavior in all walks of life.

By denouncing racism, supporting gay athletes to live openly and fighting corruption at all levels in the sporting business, Germany can be a leader with impact that goes far beyond the world of soccer. Step by step it can, in short, prove that true victory is not measured by the spoils of war, but by the progress achieved in a long fought battle.

Applied to the “real world”, challenges abound. With a unique historical perspective and sense for moderation, Germany can use its strength and power of example to help resolve ethnic and sectarian conflicts, humanitarian refugee crises, income inequality and the struggle between security and personal freedom. Admired around the world, it is time for Germany look beyond the national pride of the moment and to build and advance its reputation as a reliable force for real progress on the world stage.

Both Germany and Argentina can take heart in the aspirational words found in Ecclesiastes:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

For Argentina, who itself is no stranger to World Cup finals, both team and country can look back at a hard fought and successful competition, which could have ended a lot earlier if it didn’t have the faith and the will to succeed. In Sports like in life, there is consolation that the next opportunity to prove your faith is just around the corner.

Man in the Middle

From a shortlist that included Edward Snowden, Bashar Assad and Ted Cruz, it is a true blessing that Pope Francis was chosen as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year:

The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

It is in that spirit of change that the significance of TIME’s choice lies. Regardless of faith and personal circumstance, Pope Francis stirs a real hope that things can and will change for the better. In a year full of disenchantment in political leaders and other agents of change, the Pope holds out the prospect for a renewed optimism.

As “OnFaith” blogger Elizabeth Tenety writes in the Washington Post, progressives in media and politics have embraced with glee the new Pope’s critique on “the “obsessed” narrow-mindedness of those in the church.” The Pope’s message of humility, tolerance and inclusion are indeed a big draw for those of us disillusioned by some conservatives too quick to judge alternative lifestyles and progressive beliefs.

Elizabeth Tenety also points out, however, that Pope Francis is not in fact advocating an overhaul of the core beliefs of the Church. He is no more in favor of gay marriage or abortion than previous popes. The new Pope does, on the other hand, want to change the culture and tone of debate around these (for conservatives) controversial issues in favor of greater reconciliation and understanding. 

In life, as in politics, we may not always agree on what is “right”, but we can usually agree on what is wrong. According to the Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

If sowing the seeds of discord – the greatest of these abominations – has had an impact on our lives this past year, then clearly some of the other candidates on TIME’s shortlist deserve their due recognition. The will to overcome and improve the human condition, however, seems to have a greater appeal to the masses. The quest for peace, a sustainable environment and economy, a just government, respect for privacy and civil liberties, human rights and the freedom from poverty and oppression – these are the things we can and should agree on.

Pope Francis stands center stage in these debates. As a moderator and man in the middle, who seeks to surround himself by a congregation of the faithful committed to achieving a greater good, he deserves our prayers and the acclaim as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year.

Prayers for the Pope

Upon his abdication from the papacy, the Vatican deleted all the tweets of Pope Benedict for good, giving Pope Francis a “clean slate” to begin public diplomacy in the first modern papacy through the reinstated @pontifex account. In his first tweet – like in his acceptance speech and at the inauguration today – the Pope reached out with a simple request:

Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. Pope Francis.

In a humble gesture, he sends a message to the world that the road ahead will be tough and he will not be able to go it alone. Prayers for the pope will be needed.