In last Monday’s Gospel reading, Jesus watched His disciples argue about which one of them was the greatest. So, He took a child by His side and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest” (Luke 9:46-48). Now, these are good words for the Gospel, but not so good when my Fighting Irish are going head-to-head against a rivalry and bragging rights are at stake.
While praying on this Gospel, I read a reflection written by a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame who wrote about her experience attending the football game in Athens, Georgia two weeks ago when Notre Dame played the Georgia Bulldogs. The possibility of a national championship was at stake. It was a chance to prove who was the greatest among them. Her reflection on this Gospel says it all, and I want to share it with you here.
She wrote: “Welcome to Athens!” “Good luck tonight!” “Go Irish!” – All heard coming from the amazingly friendly Georgia fans two weekends ago. Walking up to the sea of red at the Georgia tailgates while wearing my Irish green was pretty intimidating, but I was happily surprised by the friendly faces, smiles, and words of welcome we received. Some Georgia fans stopped us to ask how our experience in Athens had been. They were glad we were having a great time and being welcomed enthusiastically because they and everyone they knew had had such a pleasant time at Notre Dame [during the game] in 2017. Later we talked with a member of the SilverDawgs, who explained how the University of Georgia instituted the SilverDawgs based on the Notre Dame [football stadium] Ushers. Georgia wanted to create the same kind of welcoming atmosphere they had experienced at Notre Dame.
Every football weekend, when we welcome opponents to our campus, we truly live out Christ’s call to love everyone regardless of background and affiliation. We embody Christ’s message, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me.” Though we sometimes don’t receive back the kindness we give or see the fruits of our generosity, that’s not why we love in the first place…It was a blessing to see Christ’s love shining through both sets of fans. It’s amazing how a kind word and smile, multiplied by thousands of Notre Dame fans, set in motion a wave of love and kindness in the Georgia fans. The love Christ shares with us is meant to be received as a gift and shared tangibly with the people we encounter daily.
What beautiful words to describe how Jesus wants us to treat each other! On a side note, our very own Delmar Marry (Sacred Heart Parishioner) is a stadium usher for Notre Dame home football games. That means Delmar helps bring the love of Christ to over 80,000 people every time he is in the stadium. I’m not sure how many people can do that! Certainly, not me. Go Delmar!
May we pray this week to be welcoming, to open our hearts in humility, and to receive the gift of the cross so we can give ourselves away in service to others for the love of Christ.