In the midst of football season, Andrea Bear ponders what it means to be a fan.
Fall is my favorite season. And with that I love everything that comes with it. Falling leaves, shorter days cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice whatever and of course football! And my husband and I have different teams. He’s a die-hard Raider fan, where I sport my family’s Chicago roots and cheer for the Bears (my last name was a bonus). But seriously, whether its attending an NFL games or local high school teams, I’ve loved the sport my whole life and it get into everything, even keeping track of my fantasy league to see if my players have the highest stats.
You could definitely say I’m a fan!
Now I realize not everyone likes football, but whether ones a fan of this sport, I’m sure most of us can say we’re a fan of something. Being a fan means immersing oneself so much in a topic that, in some circumstances, it becomes an obsession. Being a fan might also mean getting excited to track the biggest trends while looking from the outside and admiring and watching. As a football fan, I love the sport and watch gleefully from the stands, but I’m unlikely to step onto the field and play the game. As a mom with a bad knee I don’t see myself suiting up, heading out onto the field, getting dirty and having injuries. And I think I’d probably embarrass my kids if I did. So watching football is plenty for me.
But this season made me think about being a fan of other things, Am I fan of my faith? I go to Mass; I love Jesus, the Bible and all the stories; I buy tons of books on Christianity, and I know my prayers—but do I walk the walk or do I just sit in the stands?
I’m a good person. Isn’t that enough to be a disciple of Christ?
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke:
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14: 27)
Unlike football, being only a fan of Jesus is not enough. Being a fan of Christ means that we are merely a spectator and only partially see the fullness of God. If we love God and believe in Him we must do more than watch and admire: we must serve. Being a good person and going through our daily lives might seem like we are being Christlike but God gives each of us crosses to bear, some we don’t choose and others we willing accept. We must carry our crosses. We are called to be more than fans and become followers!
But how does one become a follower? With football I’m not willing to get uncomfortable in the mud and tackle a bunch of players, but as a Christian am I willing to get uncomfortable in the trenches to serve Christ? When we take up our Cross, God never said it would be easy. In the Letter of James, we read:
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also, faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed, someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. (James 2:15-19)
Believing in Christ is only a portion of what we are called to do. Being a follower means we have to do the things that are uncomfortable. We cannot simply sit in the stands and cheer on: we must take up our crosses. Do you have a cross that is hard to endure? Is there have someone you have trouble forgiving, or having you avoided helping someone because it's uncomfortable?
When we look at the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, we see that the Holy Spirit lays how out how we can live the Word.
We are called to:
- feed the hungry
- give drink to the thirsty
- clothe the naked
- give shelter to travelers
- visit the sick
- visit the imprisoned
- bury the dead
We must also:
- counsel the doubtful
- instruct the ignorant
- admonish the sinner
- comfort the sorrowful
- forgive injuries
- bear wrongs patient
- pray for the living and the dead
And we must do these not simply as tasks or a check-off list, but through the eyes of Jesus with love.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Carrying the cross is not easy, and at times we will fall short, but we must continue to suit up and get on the field.
As this season of football continues, I will cheer on my team, but as a follower of Christ, I need to look beyond the season and continually suit up for life.
How can you be more than just a fan of Christ and become a follower? How can you get out of the crowd and go onto the field?
Copyright 2022 Andrea Bear
Images: (top) Canva; copyright 2022 Andrea Bear, all rights reserved; Canva
About the Author
Andrea Bear is a wife, mom, and teacher in Stockton, California. In addition to CatholicMom.com, she also writes for HerLife Magazine and Catholic Stand. She recently completed her debut novel, Grieving Daughters Club. When she's not writing or taking her kids to volleyball practice you can find her sipping coffee from the neighborhood coffee establishments or tasting wine from the local vineyards. Visit AndreaBearAuthor.com.