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The Word on the Week

The Sunday Game

The flags are flying all along the Liffey proclaiming the forthcoming clash of the titans this Sunday. Co Mayo’s Green and Red evenly spaced between Dublin’s Blue and Navy announce the final of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.
The venue, Croke Park, Dublin, will be well prepared to receive its 73,500 capacity crowd. The weather forecast is good and the teams are ready. To add to the drama the finalists of 25 years ago take to the field in a commemorative parade, to be joined by the survivors of the finalists of 50 years ago. Thus the proud heritage of the game is honoured and the bonding through sport demonstrated as a prelude to the match.
Also on the field this year will be a colour party of the defence forces while overhead the Air Corps will stage a flypast. Local girl Amelda May, fresh from her performance in Las Vegas where she sang at the McGregor v Mayweather fight, has been chosen to entertain the crowd!
The smart money is all on Dublin winning. If they succeed they will have won three times in a row. The other side, Co Mayo, have not won since 1951. They have been in the final a number of times but the prize of the ‘Sam Maguire’ Cup has eluded them. One of the survivors from that winning team recommended, as part of the team’s preparation, prayer and a trip up Croagh Patrick – Mayo’s holy mountain!
Many a true word is spoken in jest and ‘The Sunday Game’ has taken on the mantle of a religion. Not so much on its own but by adding it to existing customs. This has had the effect of binding the population to the exclusion of the other. There will be few immigrants in Croke park!
One brave sole was Frank Higgins. A keen GAA supporter Frank became a Christian and as a witness wrote the text “John 3:7” on a large banner and brought it with him to the matches always standing in a prominent place behind the goal. The consistency and sincerity of his witness bore fruit and became the subject of many articles, tracts and he had a half hour programme on his life broadcast on the national television station.
Jesus takes the Pharisee Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who had asked him to explain the expression ‘born again’. Going into his knowledge of the prophets Jesus quotes Ezekiel to show that the cleansing that comes from a repentance which precedes and is part of the Spirit’s work of changing the stony heart into a heart of flesh marked out by the way it loves others (chapter 36 verses 25/26 and 1 John Chapter 3 verses 9/10).
This only added to Nicodemus’s confusion which Jesus addresses by taking him to the incident when Moses stopped a plague of snakes by having the people look in faith to the Serpent on a pole for the cure. In the same way Jesus said his being lifted up on a pole, viewed in faith, would be the remedy for the blood-poison of our sin (St John Chapter 3 verses 9 to 15).
Follow Frank’s advice and look in faith to Jesus.