by Patrick Sullivan
Need I say anymore? Allen Iverson’s 2002 press conference has certainly gone done as one of the most memorable of our time. After being accused of not going to practice by then head coach Larry Brown, A.I. responds in a cross-over of words only he could muster. Tempting though it may be to share the full quote, the main point of his rant seems to be that as the franchise player and one who “dies for the game” practice is silly.
To try and address the highly complicated and infinitely unique question as to why many young adults seem to be complacent in their faith lives would be seemingly silly. However, as the resident expert on my own faith live, I can at least attest to why I do, unlike Allen Iverson, practice.
In our results driven culture it seems that “The Answer” has a point: if you can produce the desired results, why does it matter how you get there? As a high school teacher, this is a daily struggle (read: all our fight) with my students. “Why do I need to [read, take notes, do the homework, etc.] if I can still do well on the tests?” For so many of us the bottom line is…well, the bottom line.
So if I can be successful in my job, if I’ve made it to and through the top universities and am at the top of my field, why bother with a life of faith? Why do I need God if I’ve already made it on my own? Why do I need a community of faith if I can produce through my own skills? Why be a…practicing…Catholic?
Now the tempting response goes like this: “Well, you need to remember that all of those accomplishments are gifts from God” or “You wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things if it weren’t for God.” And while there may be some truth in that, the greater reality is that God is not there to get you the job at all. Rather, God is there to remind us that our worth isn’t tied up with that job in the first place. What school we get into or what awards we have received has no impact on how much we are loved and valued by God.
God’s love for us is and always will be derived from God’s very being. What we do or what we fail to do has not impact on the nature of God and so has no impact on how incredibly much God loves us. I “cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.” Every Sunday I am reminded of these words, having been sent out seven days prior only to have returned still a sinner. “Lord, look not on [my] sins, but on the faith of your Church.” Regardless of what I do or accomplish or totally fail at during the next week, I proceed with great confidence that when I return to the Eucharistic table and “behold the Lamb of God” I will be received with Great Love – not because of my accomplishments, but because I am God’s “beloved Son, in whom [He] is well pleased.”
So why do I practice? Because I am daily reminded that as part of this dysfunctional, constantly falling short family I lovingly call The Catholic Church, I will always be loved. Despite my shortcomings, my failings, my sins, I am loved and so, inspired by this love, I do all things for the greater glory of God.
As for Allen Iverson? The 2001 MVP, 11 time All star, 3 time steals leader and 4 time scoring champion certainly left his mark on the game. But for all his individual accomplishments, he never won a single championship…
Maybe he should have practiced more.
Patrick Sullivan teaches Theology at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. As a product and procurer of Jesuit education, his affinity for all things Ignatian is matched only by his love for US soccer, a good cup of coffee and, of course, his beautiful wife Catherine.