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NFL Player Troy Polamalu - Orthodox Christian - Super Bowl S unday - DIVINE FAITH

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    From: antoniousnikolas Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 3:41 PM Super Bowl Sunday - DIVINE FAITH Webster, Feb 1, 2008 Super Bowl Sunday. For many Americans,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1 2:33 PM
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      From: antoniousnikolas
      Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 3:41 PM

      Super Bowl Sunday - DIVINE FAITH
      Webster, Feb 1, 2008

      Super Bowl Sunday. For many Americans, this Sunday has almost become
      a religious holiday with its fervor, zeal and enthusiasm. Sports in
      general, but specifically the Super Bowl, hold America's attention,
      often with an exaggerated overdose of importance. In the midst of
      such idolatry, it's refreshing to hear Troy Polamalou, one of the
      NFL's best football players, say, "First of all, I'm a Christian so
      my prayer life really comes first. Second of all, I'm a husband so
      my wife [Theodora] comes before anything else."

      This all-pro strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers noted in an
      interview with Yahoo Sports, "It's really easy for me. I love my
      faith and I know that's first.. What's important in my life is my
      faith and my family." Polamalou is a convert to the Greek Orthodox
      Church, and is unabashed about his faith. He noted that every
      Tuesday, which is his day off, he and his wife go to the Nativity of
      the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery in Saxonburg, PA to
      participate in the Divine Liturgy. He has a locker full of icons
      next to his football pads and jerseys. If you watch him in today's
      game, you'll see him constantly making the sign of the Cross. Two
      years ago, he went on a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos with a couple
      priests from Pittsburgh. Most importantly, though, his teammates and
      those who know him well talk about how he truly is a model of faith
      and humility - he obviously exemplifies what he professes to believe
      by the way he lives his life.

      "Success in football doesn't really matter to me," he said. "Success
      in anything doesn't matter. As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not
      to be successful, but to be faithful. My prayer is that I would
      glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition
      of it."

      Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, said
      something similar to his own players right before their Super Bowl
      win two years ago: "Don't make winning the Super Bowl your ultimate
      goal, because there must be something more beyond that. Life is more
      than football. We have to remember Jesus Christ's words when he
      said, "What profit is it to a person to gain the whole world, but to
      lose his soul.""

      Both of these model sportsmen offer powerful reminders to us that
      our faith and the way we live out our faith is what is truly
      important in life!

      Today's Gospel story offers a different type of example concerning
      faith. The story begins with a desperate woman crying out to
      Jesus, ""Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David, for my daughter is
      tormented by a demon." Strangely enough, our Lord seems to ignore
      the plea of this foreigner by saying to his disciples, "I was sent
      only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The woman, though,
      doesn't give up and kneels before Jesus, "Lord, help me." Christ
      again tests her faith by responding, "It's not fair to take the
      children's food and throw it to the dogs." Although the woman could
      have taken this response as an insult, she cried out in
      humility, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall
      from their master's table." To which Jesus praises her by
      saying, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you
      wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.

      The Bible teaches, "Faith can move mountains." Today's Gospel lesson
      reminds us of this power of faith. When we believe, all things are
      possible. Yet today's Gospel reading also teaches us about the type
      of faith which God expects from us. Faith is not simply professing a
      belief in something or someone. Authentic faith is always
      accompanied with other concrete virtues like love, humility, hope
      and persistence. We clearly see these virtues in today's story.

      For us to better understand this story, we must realize that the
      Canaanite woman who approached Jesus was a non-Jew, a foreigner. She
      knew that many ethnocentric Jews wouldn't even speak to her, yet
      with courage and boldness she approaches Jesus. Her daughter was
      sick and since she must have heard about this wonderful Jewish
      teacher who healed the sick and performed miracles, she approached
      Him with faith. In other words, the woman didn't allow doubts to
      hinder her faith. Her love for her daughter proved greater than the
      problems between Jews and Canaanites, and thus, gave her the courage
      and boldness to live out her faith.

      "Lord, help me," she cried on her knees. These three simple words
      and her humble action enriched her faith. The woman doesn't demand
      Jesus' help; she doesn't allow her pride to interfere with her
      faith. Instead, she humbly kneels in front of Christ as a sign of
      her helplessness. Her one and only hope is Jesus.

      So often today we allow our arrogance and pride to diminish our
      faith. We won't admit our weaknesses, nor acknowledge our utter
      dependence on God. To grow in faith, though, we must learn to cry
      out humbly, "Lord, help me."

      In response to the woman's cry, Jesus tests the authenticity of her
      humility by saying, "It is not fair to take the children's food and
      throw it to the dogs." If someone called us a dog, would we
      furiously walk away from that person? Yet St. John Chrysostom
      explains that "Christ's words were not spoken as an insult, but were
      used to call forth her virtue and reveal the great treasure of faith
      she possessed."

      Without offense, she simply replies, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs
      eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." And with this,
      our Lord heals her daughter, and praises her faith. Throughout this
      story, Christ teaches each one of us that sincere faith grows where
      love and humility are present; persistent resolve and unfailing hope
      also nourish a living and authentic faith.

      Divine faith is not something that comes easily. St. Paul
      teaches, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction
      of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). Today, let each of us remember that
      devout faith is not simply saying "I believe" in something. Sincere
      and rich faith grows in a life where love, humility, hope and
      persistence abide. May we all imitate this Faith of the Canaanite
      woman, and strive to be witnesses of such faith with our lives and
      in all our actions!
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