Ole Goats In God’s Kingdom

It’s a little depressing in Chief’s Kingdom tonight.  The ole goat, Tom Brady, did what he does so often and does so well: proved himself the greatest of all time.  As football legends go, he is more legendary than Vince Lombardi, whose name is inscribed on the trophy he hoisted tonight for the seventh time.  Even among church faithful, Thomas Brady is better known than Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas a Beckett, or Thomas-Apostle, legends of ecclesial sanctity.

As another NFL season ends, it is good to honor heroes on the fields of play, like Aaron Rodgers who was named League MVP for the third time, and Russell Wilson, who is this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year.  It is also wonderful to hear the tribute that Wilson pays to his own late father through the community service and outreach that he does.  His dad taught him to dream big, to not let doubt get in his way, and to express love through charitable actions.  And, of course, there are thousands of frontline workers in this pandemic year who are heroes, much like there were frontline heroes during the 9-11 aftermath, and personal heroes in our own lives.  To that list, I add all of you who contributed to our annual Super Bowl soup collection this year at Saint Charles Parish, where we collected approximately 30,000 cans of soup to help feed the hunger in our area in the year ahead (5,000 more than last year).

Along with our many Saint Thomases, we who seek to live in God’s kingdom, honor other heroes beyond the fields of play who, like Russell’s dad Harrison Wilson III, are heroes on the fields of life.  Pope Francis has asked us to keep one, in particular, in mind this year as we seek to overcome the dangerous challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.  The Holy Father declared this to be the Year of Saint Joseph, and in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, meaning “with a father’s heart,” he reminded us of the grave challenges Joseph faced during his life.  Though very little is known about him, and he is often put in the background or presented as sort of an old goat, we know that he overcame the harsh challenges he was given.  He did this, I think, because of the virtues of obedience, courage, and humility that he nurtured in that heart of his.  One of my friends refers to Joseph as our first father because, as Jesus’ earthly dad, he is, in a sense, father of all Christians, too.  We would do well to seek the kind of father’s heart that Joseph had.  It helped him to remain obedient to the voice of God, courageous in fending off incredible hardships, and humble as he faded into the background as a quiet, loving soul.

There is only one Tom Brady; his goat status on the field of play makes him a hero and legend for football fans for all times.  There is only one Saint Joseph; his goat status in salvation history and on the field of life and faith makes him a hero of a different kind.  This year, let us turn to him, gain inspiration from him, and imitate the virtues that he held in a father’s heart.  Though we may not gain the status of goats or heroes, we can enrich other’s lives.