Football has rules and regulations to be followed by Players in the field of play. The aim of this game is to put the ball into the net of the opponent. The central referee is the judge who evaluates the actions and reactions of each player according to the rules. He decides whether to give a yellow card or red card to a player depending on the roughness and brutality of each player against the other. A yellow card signifies a warning to a player while a red card warrants the dismissal of a player out of the field of play to forfeit the next match as a sanction for disobeying the rules of football of fair play.
Just like football, in order to follow Christ as a good Christian, we need to obey the commandments he has laid down for us and listen to his voice every day as we heard in the first reading (Jer.7:23). The responsorial Psalm reiterates, stating that “O that today you would listen to his voice harden not your hearts”. Obeying this commandment, will lead us to the goal of our striving as “Players” in this pilgrim church on earth to win the crown of unfading glory. The first reading warns us that we should not be like our forefathers who from the day they came out of the land of Egypt to this day, God has persistently sent all his servants, the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to God, or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers (Jer.7:25-26). Obedience was far from them.
In the gospel text of today’s liturgy Jesus Christ, gives a red card to the demon that was mute by casting it out of a man who wanted “fair play”, who wanted to follow Christ and obey his commandments but was disturbed by the brutal and wicked demon (Cfr.Lk.11:14).
More so, the communion antiphon of this Eucharistic celebration says “You have laid down your precepts to be carefully kept; may my ways be firm in keeping your statutes”. For us to be good Christians that we want to be, obedience to the voice of God and his commandments is not an option.
The test of our commitment to God is obedience to his precepts and decrees. The Gospel of Today presents us with a fatal choice: “The one who is not with me is against me. The one who does not gather with me scatters.” It is either-or not both-and, and no compromising. Jesus demands total, all-out, complete commitment to him and to his way of life.
All in all, unlike the referee of a football match who gives a warning to a player with a Yellow card, and dismisses a player with a Red card, in a Christian life, our God is a judge who is merciful and just, he gives warnings and instructions through his commandments, when we disobey, we incur a red card for ourselves like the demon in the gospel text. Like football rules, lent demands of us a life of Prayer, Fasting, and Alms giving. Obedience to these Lenten demands makes us gather with the Lord rather than scatter, makes us be for him and not against him. Like Christ, let us cast out or give a red card to the demon of wickedness, hatred, brutality, and disobedience by obeying the commandments of God as we read in the first reading. May the Lord give us the grace to be obedient to him and totally committed to Him.