Grace to you!
Golfing is one of the best ways to get to know people and their real character. From its subtle requirement of personal accountability, one could glean some lessons about authentic witnessing to the gospel.
I don't know much about golf, though my interest has increasingly grown. The growing interest is in part due to relationships with friends who live and breathe golf. On one occasion, one of these friends mentioned something that got my attention. "Fr. Maurice," he said, "Golfing is one of the best practical ways to know the level of people's integrity."
As a game with many subtleties, golfing has many tricks. The rules are subtle too. It's also a game where dishonest players could quickly reveal their true color. Mulligan (a do-over), improving their lie, and not counting all their shots to improve their score are common temptations revealing the players' true character. Or the allure to have an advantage for betting purposes (the so-called sandbaggers) by increasing one's handicap. This, too, tests the golfer's integrity.
In golf, there is a lavish benefit of the doubt. After all, the game is expected to belong to true gentlemen and women. Unfortunately, not many live up to that ideal. Many cheat while playing against themselves. Ironical. Isn't it like real life?
"In golf, when people cheat, they are not cheating others. They are cheating themselves because golf is like life. In golf, it's you playing against the golf course," a friend suggested.
The rule of golf is a practical test of character. You get a feel of people's characters and temperaments by playing golf with them.
Integrity. Honesty. These are beautiful attributes. Who would not want to be seen as possessing them? Yet, in real life, few have these qualities. Nonetheless, it's in integrity that the authority of credible witnessing is built.
A credible witness's integrity is the correspondence between the game's rules and the game's actual play. In the same way, authentic witnessing is such that there is an alignment between what one says, believes, and what one does, at least to a reasonable measure.
The messenger of the God News and a faithful Christian witness is one who has allowed the holiness of Jesus, the Good News of God, to breathe in them. A credible witness lives the rules. The person does not just say them. They also believe and try as much as possible, by grace, to live them. They walk the talk.
For the Blessed Lord's disciples then and now, a fresher course on honesty and integrity is needed. The Lord speaks to its persuasive power, which in part, lies in its ethical dimension. "A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks" (Lk 6:45).
These reflective questions could be a good way to test my commitments to this integrity principle. Using the golfer's metaphor, what are the fruits I produce when I know no one is watching? How do I act when I am solely responsible for keeping the rules because that's how it's played whether people are watching or not? What thoughts do I harbor, and what ideas to I relish in my mind? Do they produce good fruits?
I pray we bear witness to the Good News by producing fruits consistent with the gospel we carry. May we harbor ethical and holy thoughts. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 23: I Cor 10:14-22; Lk 6:43-49]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.