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You’ve probably already picked up on the fact that I’m not Mr. Sportsman. I played football and basketball up through junior high and I was on the fencing team while in high school, but that was really about it. Fencing I was pretty good at, but for the rest… not so much, except for one of my last games before I aged out in Little League baseball.
In the town I grew up in, Springhill, Louisiana—it was a paper mill town—every summer you signed up for Little League. My team was the Indians and I played right field (that’s where the put the guy with the least amount of talent). Games were on Saturday and every Sunday following the game, the newspaper would write them up, however, you only got your name in the paper if you did something remarkable. Well, my name got a mention maybe once per summer, but the last time, I got an entire sentence to myself. I remember it to this day: “Big Bat John Toles hit three doubles.” Can I get an ‘Amen.’
It seems it is that way in most team sports. We can read all day about Tom Brady and how many touchdowns he threw and yards he passed—and good on him—but the left guard on the front line who protected Tom Brady all the way through the game… you would be lucky to even know his number, much less his name, however, I would put money on this one: we may not know that left guard, but Tom Brady—Tom Brady knows his name, he also knows his wife and kids’ names, all their birthdays, what his favorite drink is, the color of his eyes, and what day of the week he prefers to cut his toenails on. Why? Because Tom Brady knows that he is absolutely nothing without that left guard and Brady wants to be able to show that left guard all the appreciation he has earned for taking such good care of him.
Why the talk about football and the left guard? In reading through the New Testament, you are going to hear about Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, John, and a few others, but the two we celebrate today, Philip and James, and so many others are rarely even mentioned.
Philip is number five in the lists of Apostles that we receive and he shows up a few times in John’s Gospel, but James (and this is James the Less / James the Younger, meaning he is not James of Jerusalem or John’s brother) other than a possible mention of him Mark’s Gospel, simply disappears from the records. Because they are so rarely mentioned, it is easy to think of them in the same way we think of that left guard, which means, we don’t think of them much, but ask Jesus. Ask Jesus what significance they played in the early Church and I’m guessing you will hear a very different story.
When it comes to our work in the Church, we may at times see ourselves as the right fielders and one of us may occasionally get the ‘Big Bat’ mention or we may see ourselves at that left guard, but in the eyes of Jesus, we can be seen as the Philips and the James, or the Phoebe and the Joanna. We can be seen as servants of our God, faithfully fulfilling the individual call Jesus has placed on each of our lives. And remember, we are not alone in this great work. We have Jesus and we have one another. As St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “Do you see? One strand of wire entwined with another, many woven tightly together, form that cable strong enough to lift huge weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will can overcome all obstacles.” (The Way #480) Together, accomplishing the will of God.