I understand professional sports about as well as I understand open-heart surgery. I know basically nothing. In fact, I seem to have a mental block about physical activity in general and I show signs of a neurological deficit when attempting to watch a sporting event. I am rendered almost senseless as my mind wanders to far far away places when forced to witness a game on TV. I may have a rare condition called Sports Induced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (yeah, I just made that up). There is no known treatment or cure and the afflicted suffer in silence. Sigh.
So why am I writing about a saint and a professional athlete? Laying aside my in ability to understand football (see above, SI-ADHD), Mr. Kaepernick’s recent protests during the National Anthem and the canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4th offer a tantalizing opportunity to articulate one important truth about authentic love.
I know what you are thinking. How can I smash together such seemingly opposite players on the world’s stage? I offer you that sometimes it is the coming together of opposites that help clarify a picture. If a painting did not make use of light and dark it would have no dimension.
The Internet tells me that Mr. Kaepernick has chosen to sit out the National Anthem at the beginning of his professional games. A few somewhat nonsensical interviews indicate Mr. Kaepernick’s motivation. He is protesting racism in our country and the gravity of the violence and death proceeding from that hatred. He is sitting on behalf of people of color.
Bravo Mr. Kaepernick in attempting to recognize a legitimate sickness in the world today. However, Mother Teresa might have characterized the issue differently. She saw with great clarity how the world dehumanizes people in order to justify death and abandonment. She understood that when we render a group as unworthy of life and protection (the unborn, the mentally ill, the intellectually disabled, the poor, various ethnic groups, etc.) we are saying they are not part of the human race.
Mother Teresa also knew that the proper response to this dehumanization was love – Love that was embodied as radical self-giving. She did not sit it out! She plunged into the poverty of Calcutta and with her whole being she cared for the abandoned. Her hands cleaned sores and her arms embraced the dying. She gave love in her active sacrifice.
Take note Mr. Kaepernick, Love is not inaction or protest. Love is radical self-giving.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pray For Us!