How many times the Lord begins his teaching with these words! ”The Kingdom of God is like …. A man who finds a pearl of great price, a woman who finds a lost coin, someone sells all he has to buy a field ……” The Kingdom of God is happening, ongoing, day to day life. I believe the Lord is saying to us that it’s not a destination but an inclination. It’s not something you can speak or type into a Sat Nav and be directed by a synthesised voice. It’s a way of life to be put into the heart and the guiding voice is that of conscience, that of Tradition, that of God. The Kingdom of God is like …………….

We speak of being The Church. This means that every baptized man, woman and child is “CHURCH”. We say this so often but it doesn’t seem to easily sit with us. We are, at times, more comfortable with the notion of CHURCH being out there – a destination rather than an inclination. Something we can point to rather than “be”. What does it mean that we are “The Church”?

I went for a walk the other day with the dog – never sure who’s walking who!! I was wearing a Sligo football jersey that a friend gave me a few years ago. As I neared home I met two couples at the crossroads. We stopped and chatted and then one of the men joked “What are you wearing that for? Sure ye’re not even in the Championship any more!” It was a good-natured comment and, of course, FACT!! We laughed about it and parted company. The comment lingered though “What are you wearing that for? Sure you’re not even in the Championship any more!” A fair point but that doesn’t mean the jersey shouldn’t be worn. In season and out of season, there’s a need for loyalty. Now, let’s be clear – I an NOT a football fanatic and seldom attend games. I have known the lows and lows (yeah, I know) of Sligo football but enjoyed some good moments too. Not least, good moments rooted in comments from the stands, the colour of the day and the hope that “this might just be our day!!”. I am proud of Sligo though and happy to be from that county. I wore the jersey not because of championships but because it fits!! More than that, it reminds me where I’m from. The jersey’s wearing shouldn’t depend on the status in the championship but rather a sense of belonging – home – community – memory – hope ……

The Church is like ………… wearing the county colours even when the championship has gone sour and off key. Mayo supporters went to Hyde Park in Roscommon last weekend in the hope that they could re-capture the Connaught Title from Roscommon. They did! Joy for one side and disappointment for the other. A game played, a dream realised and a hope lost – all in the seventy minutes of a Sunday Game. Mayo progresses now and the County’s hope, like the hope of all counties in with a shout, is that there will be red and green in Croke Park on the third Sunday of September. Let’s assume that will happen. Everyone from Mayo in Croke Park that day will be “MAYO”. There will be no distinction in age, place in the park, whether you’re on the field of play or a spectator. As one “MAYO” will hope for victory. Let’s imagine it happens! Presentation of the Sam Maguire. Rousing speech from the Captain. Thanks to the backroom team. Thanks to the management. Above all thanks to the SUPPORTERS. The roar will be deafening. Three cheers for the losing team who played “out of their socks” and “who will have another day”. Sam is coming “home”. Home where? Home to Mayo. As one, Mayo will leave and head for the evening’s celebrations and look forward to a Monday’s journey West. Those who didn’t make it to Croke Park will prepare all things well. Sam will be met where the Shannon meets the West. Cavalcades of cars, beeping horns, flashing lights and unstoppable excitement will be the order of the day. Ballaghaderreen will be Mayo and the Team’s Bus will stop outside Hanley’s and …. It would be a mighty Monday! Everyone caught up in that will be MAYO. The Church is like ….

God forbid it doesn’t go that way. The final whistle brings another disappointment. The cavalcades, buses and Sam Maguire head off to another county. Then the analysis will begin. ”They weren’t hungry enough”. ”They didn’t play the seventy minutes”. Fingers will point towards missed frees and opportunities. Some players will be picked out for negative mention. ”What did he put him on for?” The management will then be criticised and eventually the manager. ”He’ll have to go!” The Church is like …….

That seems to be what the Church is like. It’s like everything else. When things go wrong it becomes less us and more “them”. Someone needs to be blamed. Team players and management and manager will be singled out and comments will fly. Sometimes, of course, the management deserve the criticism and need to hear what’s said. Not always though. Chances are, like the management and players of the County Team, they thought they were putting a fail safe plan in operation that would lead to a solid and genuine outcome. They thought all eventualities were covered, all weaknesses addressed but …. The Church is like ….

There’s something of that happening just now. We “The Church” no longer see ourselves as the full team – united on the playing field and in the stands – but rather disappointed supporters, rolling up the flags, folding the county colours (if not just dumping them) and wondering will our day ever come. Just as the County Team needs the roar of the crowd, the oneness of the crowd, I believe that’s where we are now. We need each other. We need to be one. Management, Team and Supporters – one! There is so much to lose here. We cannot forget the injured team members – those who have been hurt and badly treated. It’s really time to see ourselves as Church and to stop pointing the finger of blame. That’s not to say there isn’t need for reform, renewal or perhaps fresh blood in management but we need to do this together as “Church”. If we are Church on the good days of Third Sundays in September, then we are “Church” the day we’re knocked out of the championship. We re-group, carry the injured, bandage their wounds and look to the future in the oneness of our “now”.

The county jersey, assuming its clean, should be worn even when the championship is beyond reach …………….

A thought! Thanks for reading.

3 Responses

  1. Tom Cox

    A thoughtful, positive and hopeful posting by Vincent. Am struck by some priests I come across on twitterland and elsewhere who seem so negative and critical. We seem to have a culture of blame in our very marrow.
    As one letter writer to a national paper put it “Sir, – A short history of the Irish governing classes’
    collective psyche. Blame the British. Blame the EU. Blame
    the Vatican. Ignore all mirrors. – Yours, etc,”
    Maybe we need a shipment of mirrors and of moral fibre!
    Thanks for posting

    Tom Cox
    Ferbane, Offaly

  2. Bernie Martin

    Who exactely are
    – Management
    – Team
    – Supporters

  3. Vincent Sherlock

    Fair question Bernie. Wish I had a definite answer. Something of “Trinity” I think – three in one. I don’t see management in Rome, team as priests and supporters as laity but realise it might be seen that way – not sure if that’s what you mean. I just meant we need to be in this as one. We need to work together, acknowledge the other and do our best for one another out of whatever role we seek to live life in Faith.

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