“March Madness” has begun, and basketball fans all around the country will spend countless hours at the games or watching them on television. I watched many of those games in the past and was always impressed with the teams of UCLA’s John Wooden. His teams won an amazing ten championships in a twelve year span, a record that will never be tied or broken. But more important than his victories were the life lessons and advice he imparted to his players. As we begin our Lenten journey, I would like to share some of his lessons and give them a Catholic perspective.
“Failure is not fatal. Failure to change might be.” Lent is a time for us to acknowledge our failure to love God and neighbor. We acknowledge our sins and try to make up for them by disciplining our minds and bodies through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This will certainly help us succeed in our relationships with God and neighbor, and prevent us from failing to inherit heaven.
“I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live.” During Lent, we meet God’s saving plan and are reminded of our final destiny. While few of us have the talent to consider basketball our destiny, still other things such as materialism, consumerism, work, power, and even leisure can obscure the ultimate – God and the kingdom of heaven. Lent helps us refocus.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is what people think you are.” Lent is that special time during which we reflect on our character and see the flaws which need correction. The sacrament of Penance is the best beginning to eliminate those faults. This season is a stark reminder that God is not impressed by our reputation and will judge us by our character.
Finally, “Adversity is the state in which man easily becomes acquainted with himself being especially free of admirers then.” Nobody can avoid adversity in life – not even Jesus or Mary. Therefore, we need to prepare for it as best we can. Lent gives us the time to build up our spiritual energy to withstand whatever difficulties come our way. Hopefully we will face them as courageously as did our Lord, our Blessed Mother, and all the saints.
Our Lenten penances may not help us to win a national basketball championship, but they can help us win the kingdom of God.
- Fr. Carl