October 14, 2018
Although I am a really, really, bad golfer I really love playing golf. I don’t know that you can really call it golf to be honest. It’s more like field hockey with a smaller ball and stick. I don’t always follow the rules either. I have special rules that help make the game move faster and it is easier to score. So, for example, I tee off until I get a good shot – maybe five or six chances. That counts as one shot. This is also true for the second and third shot onto the green. It may take four or five tries – all count as one. Then on the green if the ball rolls over the hole that counts as in. If it rolls around the hole, that also counts as in, and if it comes within an inch or stops a few inches short they also count as in. On paper I’m a really great golfer. I love this game.
I came to the game of golf late, only a few years ago, maybe ten. Even though I grew up in Ireland, which has some of the best golf courses in the world, I didn’t play golf in Ireland. I actually have been at St. Andrews in Scotland – and walked around with Christy O’Connor while he played. I only started playing golf while at the seminary here in Cincinnati. Nowadays I don’t get to play much. Being a priest gets in the way of being a good golfer.
Now there's a point! I watch golf on TV and I am, like most of the people who watch golf on TV, amazed at how accurate, precise, disciplined and powerful the “real” golfers are. How do they do what they do? The answer is simple – talent and work – but mostly work. Great golfers work at being great golfers. As well as a certain amount of natural talent and skill, all great golfers have focus, determination, and they practice and work at their game constantly, every day, always looking to sharpen a skill and hone a fault. A professional golfer plays in tournaments, around the world, almost every week. They practice eight hours or more every day. When they have a problem with one aspect of their game they work on that issue until it is simply no longer an issue, but a strength. Hours and hours of hard work, focus, discipline, determination, go into the drive to be the best. They are committed to the vision of being a master.
The difference between the amateur and the professional is hard work, commitment, and single-minded determination. So much so, that they give their lives over to their sport – which becomes their life. To win you must be the best and to be the best you have to work at it, train, sacrifice, and make it happen. Not all professionals are great, but the great ones are all professional.
When Jesus says we must live out the Ten Commandments in our lives and go even further than that, we must give everything to follow God. Jesus is saying we must be absolutely and determinedly committed, we must be all in, holding nothing back, single-minded, and focused on the goal. We should be clear about what Jesus is asking of us. Jesus is saying that to follow Him means to offer all we have, all we do and all we are to God the Father. It means that we cannot be amateurs about the faith we must be professionals – to be a disciple means following the Master. The Master will lead us to victory. Victory for us is life with God in Heaven.
In this life we are not all golfers. But we are all called to be winners. To be a winner we must have vision, determination, courage, singlemindedness and we must be willing to make sacrifices. What does it mean to be a “winning” husband, a “winning” father, a “winning” wife or mother, a “winning” priest? These walks of life, these relationships, these vocations are far more important than golf, or some career, or some hobby. What does it take to be the father, mother, husband, wife, priest, man or woman God wants us to be? And what does failing mean for us, and even more, what does failing in these vocations mean for the people we love? Being a miserable father, or mother, or priest, or husband, or wife, impacts all around us – especially those we are supposed to love the most.
Jesus tells us that being fully committed is essential for success and leads to victory. Anything other than complete commitment is a waste of a life. To live life to the full and to live successfully means sacrificing everything, giving up everything, for the sake of love and following Jesus. No other way leads to victory.
- Fr. Ben
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