1942 - 2016
In Heaven this morning sits the Almighty God, the All-Knowing One, having light conversation and brunch with a Catholic and a Jew. The Jew is a storyteller and the Catholic is a teacher. The meal is the "bread of eternal life" and "life-giving water". It's an outdoor restaurant with a beautiful polished mahogany table in a what looks like a never-ending garden of bright green, interspersed with wildflowers of every color. The scenery resembles a Michelangelo painting ... the paint still wet. On every horizon is a high wall. The wall is constructed of jasper, and its foundations are decorated with every precious stone. The wall's gates are pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl and throughout the garden, the roads are pure gold, transparent as glass. The wall is not one of segregation, rather one of welcoming for those who wish to enter and stay. The maitre d at the restaurant is named Peter. He welcomes each new patron with a sign of peace and a simple menu. A man named Paul, a convincing server, walks from table to table taking orders, extolling the health benefits of the bread and water meal. After each meal, a latino busboy named Jesus cleanses each table and washes the patrons' feet before they leave the restaurant and spend the rest of the day strolling through the bright garden. In this world, there is no sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God provides it light.
While sitting at God's table, The Catholic and the Jew begin telling Him the story of a great champion, not just of physical prowess, but also of mental and spiritual greatness. Much like when Christ disguised Himself to Cleopas to hear a description of His own life story while walking down a road toward a village called Emmaus, God listens intently to the story about the man whom He's known from before his birth, while patiently awaiting his arrival. The true story of this champion was not of the accomplishments of one man, rather the trinity of love between 3. One without the other 2 may very well have lived in obscurity, but the 3 together taught the world about the love of fellow man, love of family, humor in conflict, the righteousness of objecting to racism and war and Faith in God, even when they participated in a sport considered so brutal.
The respect between the 3 was immeasurable and many times comical. The Jew once remarked about the Catholic, "If I had a son who wanted to be a fighter and I couldn't talk him out of it, the only man I would let train him [would be the Catholic]". The Catholic and the "Champion" never had a written contract, only a handshake. The Jew, a loquacious attorney and grandson of a Rabbi, once remarked that the "Champion" was being truculent. His intended target responded with; “Whatever truculent means, if that’s good, I’m that.”
The conversation at the table is interrupted by a booming knock at one of the gates. A voice shouts "The Champ is Here and I'm Home". Peter answers the knock and invites him in, and through the gate walks a Muslim man: The "Champion" described to God by the Catholic and the Jew. The smile on his face and the white robe he's wearing brighten the sky. This robe too says "Everlast". No longer is his appearance marred by years of physical punishment. His youth beams. His eyes twinkle like the stars. He introduces himself to the All-Knowing One, then tearfully hugs the Catholic and the Jew. God wipes away their tears, because there is no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.
The waiter named Paul sits down and tells the Muslim man of their commonality while they were on earth ... they were both fighters for the greatness of God. Paul borrows the book from the All-Knowing One, and and opens it to the 1st letter he (Paul) wrote to the people of Corinth. It's titled "All Things to All”.
Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
This Muslim tells of not fighting for perishable crowns but for the dignity of all men. Because of his country's inequality, he discarded in a river a perishable crown in the form of a gold medal he received standing on the top tier of an olympic podium. He was a champion for all people. In a 1996 CBS 60 Minutes News interview with the champion, it tells the tale of this Muslim who spends time signing several hundred autographs for free, even though he suffers from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's syndrome. When asked about it afterwards, he whispers; "I'm just trying to get to Heaven." His wife remarks that "he feels that everything he did prior to now was to prepare him for where he is now in life. He is very much more a spiritual being. He is very aware of his time here on Earth. And he has sort of planned the rest of his life to do things so that he is assured a place in heaven."
In the Book of Revelation God says; I bring with me the recompense [reward or repayment] I will give to each according to his deeds.
In the 2nd Book of the Quran, Al-Baqara, it says; Truly those who do evil and are surrounded by their sins will be the inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain, while those who believe and do good deeds will be the inhabitants of the Garden, there to remain.
Champ, may you rest in peace in the loving arms of the Almighty God in the Garden of Heaven.
The real message of the this champion's death is not about the loss of one great man nor the losses of 3 great men, rather its the love that God instilled in them for each other, regardless of their differences in life and in Faith. Christ said the greatest commandment is; “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The Jew - "The Storyteller"
The Catholic - "The Teacher"
The Muslim - "The Champion"
This blog is dedicated to Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Midtown Manhattan. Without your Homily this morning inspired by the Gospel Lk.7:11-17, I would not have had the inspiration to write this blog. You will always be my favorite Homilist. God Bless You.
Author G.R. Miller, utilizing his engineering and project management experiences in the fossil fuels energy sectors and guidance from God, takes a pragmatic approach of part preterism, part symbolism and part literalism in decoding the Revelation of Jesus Christ. He exhibits a Climate Change connection through scripture, commentary and illustrations.