When I was a kid I played baseball, but I must admit I was terrible at it.  I loved playing and still love the game today, but quite frankly my eye-hand coordination was off.  I really could not hit, throw or catch at all.  But, while I could, I still played in the town’s organized baseball league, and from time to time, my Dad would come to watch me.  He was also an umpire in the league, but usually was not assigned to my games for obvious reasons.

I will never forget one particular game that Dad came to watch.  It happened that the umpire did not show up and so they asked Dad if he would umpire.  Both teams knew he was my father, but they also knew they did not have to worry about any bias on my Dad’s part: everyone realized I was not really that good a player, especially my Dad.  Plus, he was scrupulous when it came to fairness and honesty.  Even as children, my Dad was not one to let us win at games; it was years before I ever beat him at cribbage.  But the great thing was that I learned how to play the game better, because he would always explain to me how I could have played the cards differently.  Hence, my Dad was not going to give me any breaks simply because I was his child.  If I struck out, I struck out.  If I messed up on a play, then I messed up on a play.  He would treat me like any other player on the field.

The reason this game sticks out in my mind is not because of any particular play; rather, it is because of how my Dad dealt with some of the parents on the other team.  As the game progressed, some of the parents were getting annoyed with how Dad was calling the game.  Now, mind you, they were winning but that was not enough for those parents.  They were getting on Dad’s case, and even worse, for his obvious outlook on how children should play sports.  Dad believed that kids should play sports for one reason only—to have fun.  Yes, they should play to win, but ultimately it should be for the love of the game.  Dad had little tolerance for people who forget that it is only a game.  As the game progressed, he had enough of the comments, and after trying several times to get these parents to stop, he went to the coach of that team.  He told him, “Either you get those parents to stop or I will forfeit the game for you.”  The coach knew Dad was not kidding and that he could and would do it.  He quickly relayed this message to the parents, and they understood what would happen and so they stopped.  The other quality my Dad had was that he could not be intimidated and knew when he was in charge.

What I learned from Dad that day was two things: to never allow yourself to be bullied, and to stand up for others.  As I said, he was less concerned about himself and more for the kids playing.  He was going to make sure he stood up for them so they could simply enjoy the game.  When we look to Christ that is essentially what He did for us.

Christ went out to be with the marginalized.  He ate with the sinner, prostitute and tax collector.  He touched those who were ill and possessed.  He chose for his companions, fisherman, tax collectors and rebels.  He came to bring healing for those the world considered insignificant and unimportant.  He was attacked and belittled for his choice of companions.  But Jesus understood them, for that is who He is.  He chose to come among the poorest of the poor.  He became a refugee who had to flee the political power of his day.  He knew what it was to be hungry.  He would understand what it was to be betrayed, denied, deserted, and turned against by the very people He came to save.  He experienced physical and emotional abuse, but through it all Christ was most concerned for the other.

Christ showed us that it can never be about us first.  The only way to follow Christ is to take up the cross.  The only way to follow Christ is to be willing to die to ourselves for the sake of the other.  And the other is not only our family, friends, state or nation.  It is the recognition that Christ came to die for all, especially for those who would reject him.  God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge and love of Christ.  We must, as a community of faith, be willing to stand up for those no one else will.  We must recognize the inherent dignity and sacredness of all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.  We must realize that the boundaries, borders and walls we create are just human creations, and should have no bearing in our judgments and actions as Christians.

The essential reality of Christian life is found in the meaning and the purpose of the cross.  Jesus came for the whole world and expects us to do exactly the same.  We will differ as human beings on many things, but the one thing we must never lose is the sense of respect we must afford to every person, no matter their circumstances.  My Dad was most upset about the lack of respect that was being shown to the children—many he didn’t even know.  Dad’s sense of fairness told him that this must be stopped.  Christ came to show us to what extent we must be willing to go, to uphold the dignity and sacredness of life.  Respect should never need to be earned.  We must always treat the other with respect regardless of how we are treated by them.  No one can lose their dignity or the respect they are due because it is God-given.  As Christians we must stand up for those being marginalized, no matter how difficult, what people might think or they may react, or what it might cost us.  That is what my Dad showed me that day… and why Christ died on the cross.

If you have any questions about anything, please do not hesitate to ask me directly, or send your questions to me at fr.brian@chelmsfordcatholic.org.

Please keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,

Fr. Brian