Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Who's the better person or team and Who's going to win?  These are two questions that are asked, discussed, and are answered on a daily basis in our country and around the world by people who follow sports......and I think you would agree with me that many people do.  With the advent of cable television, now many years ago, we have sporting events being viewed on a daily basis by many. The number of 24/7 sports channels has grown so much, that it's not a question of IF sporting events are on, but rather which one, or usually ones that I'm going to watch over a period of multiple hours and day after day after day.

Such a phenomena and reality I believe leads among other things to a competitive mentality in many, not only with regard to sports, but in other areas of life as well. 

It can produce a winner and loser mentality and I think I can say with confidence, "everyone likes a winner." To most and some would argue most everyone who competes, foremost on their mind is winning, which means of course defeating one's opponent(s).  And when there's a pause in the action, there are many commentators who are arguing about who's the better person or team in general or in a specific game or event, before, during, and after it takes place.

Such  competitiveness can (AND I BELIEVE DOES)  bleed over and affect people's mindset and actions in other areas as well (like politics) and yes even in religion. 

In days of Jesus and even after he ascended to heaven, there was a definite competitiveness going on between the disciples of John the Baptist and those of Jesus.  Both felt that their teacher was greater than the other.  Scripture scholars believe that all the evangelists of the four Gospel write what they do, including what we heard in today's Gospel, to make it clear, that Jesus was BY FAR superior to John. 

And yet, if you remember from one of the Gospels during Advent, that Jesus had good things to say about John and his ministry. "Among those born of woman, there is none greater than John the Baptist." 

Believe you me, the Gospel writers, who quoted many things (and the whole of the Gospels show that Jesus was indeed much greater than John), probably were slow to include this statement of Jesus, but did so NOT because it was true (it wasn't) but because it showed the humility of Jesus.

That's the main point I want to make today.  In this overly competitive environment in which we live, which does have its positives and sadly many negatives as well, Jesus AND John had a spirit of cooperation about them and their ministry.  They both called out "Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand" and each realized and accepted their role in salvation history and each appreciated what the other was doing.... that they were in "together" to accomplish God's will for them and for all of humanity.

It's good, maybe even providential that we get this Gospel to ponder this week as a number of events are coming up that deserve our attention and reflection.

Tomorrow (Monday) is the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Though he was a strong individual voice in the days of the civil rights movement, he cooperated with many others, including people of all faiths and Christian denominations to promote the coming together of African-American people and Caucasians and the treating of every human being of all colors with respect and giving them equal rights.

This week, January 18 in fact starts the week of prayer for Christian Unity.  In part, we can and should pray for unity of belief and practice among believers of Jesus, but also we should pray that more and more all baptized followers of Jesus will come together in the name of the Lord Jesus and cooperate in areas of charity, justice, and peace. We are called to celebrate and participate in all ways that people of faith can make a difference, not only in elections, but in legislation that promotes Jesus' way of justice, love and mercy, and in yearly opportunities like the March for Life next Sunday in Little Rock at the state capitol.

Finally, I must say how impressed I am with the spirit of cooperation, not competition that exists here in this Church community, in things like most recently the baby shower, and in the various ministries and activities that go on here in our liturgies, in education, in social justice and charitable outreach, and in parish life.

In fact, two weekends from now, I hope you answer the invitation I'm presenting you now to join us after one of the weekend Masses and hear about our various ministries and activities at Sacred Heart that ARE MANY AND VARIED, ARE IMPORTANT, AND THAT NEED MORE OF US to get involved and cooperate with each other in ways that will bear tremendous fruit for us and others and give glory to God.  Among the many benefits we will be doing our part to continue the wonderful legacy that those who have gone before us have left us here at Sacred Heart of serving the Lord together and being the true servants (not competitors) like Jesus and John were and that our Lord wants us to be our whole life long until he calls us home.

In those with a strong competitive mindset, there are winners and there are losers and I know which one of these (we) wish to be.

I believe Jesus would say that true "Winners" are those who follow him, who work cooperatively with others, and who are ever confident of final victory with him and all the saints in glory.