When I was a collegiate athlete, my coaches stressed every year that each and every person was needed in order to have success. They would tell us that each of us are an integral part of the process, and play an essential role on the team. Therefore, if one player was not focused on achieving the goal, then the whole team would suffer.
Season after season, I watched my teammates and I struggle to understand this message. It seemed as if, not matter how many girls were oriented towards winning games and ultimately the championship, there was always a small group of girls who were focused on having the college experience. They wanted to win games and be successful, but not at the cost of their fun and enjoyment. They were not willing to skip out on parties or drinking, in order to commit more time to practice or studies. They were fixated on themselves and their desires. Inevitably, this toxic small became a larger group, and eventually infected the majority of the team with their ways.
Looking back, it’s really easy for me to point the finger at my old teammates for the errors in their ways and their selfishness.These girls, who refused to follow the rules and do all that was required of them, were not very nice people. They were rude, they gossiped, they slept around, they got drunk frequently and purposefully, they lied, they cheated, they stole.
However, when I read the gospel for today and see the disciples bicker over “who is the greatest” among them, my eyes are opened to the fact that God is still calling those people to holiness. I find myself realizing that my old teammates, who inhibited team success and were frankly not very nice to others including myself, have a place in the Kingdom. God has placed something beautiful in their hearts to reveal to the world and lead others to Jesus. God desires to have them be His disciples just as much as He desires me to be disciples.
I’ve met Jesus and given my life to Him, and I still struggle to love him and to love others as I ought. I wasn’t always kind to my teammates, I was often bitter and angry in my heart at my teammates, I wished they would be unsuccessful and learn their lesson. I was, and still am, just like the disciples pointing out the flaws in my brothers and sisters to make myself look superior.
However, Jesus is not a coach concerned about winning championships or impressing anyone. Jesus is concerned with souls, specifically the salvation of souls. He doesn’t look at our steps and compare them to anyone else’s. He doesn’t look down on us when we misstep. Jesus is only concerned with helping each soul take that next step in the direction towards Heaven.
We should desire this too, that every person may take a step away from the things of this world and instead take a step towards Heaven. We should not only desire this, but also encourage this and help our brothers and sisters fine tune those little habits in our life so that they may fully orient themselves towards Christ. It’s our job, as followers and disciples of Christ, to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ of who they are and who they are called to be. Emphasizing that not only do they play an important role in the Kingdom, but they also play a unique and unrepeatable role that no other soul in existence can play.