Daily Reflection
March 10th, 2004
Thomas A. Kuhlman
English Department
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Over a hundred years ago the Irish-American satirist Finley Peter Dunne, through his fictional saloon-keeper Martin Dooley, presented the cheers for two Chicago Catholic high school football teams.  They went: "Take an ax, an ax, an ax to thim!  Hooroo, hooroo, hellabaloo, Christyan Bro-others!" and "Hit thim, saw thim, gnaw thim, chaw thim, Saint Aloysius!"

I thought of these in connection with today's readings: Jeremiah and the Psalmist suggest that we must always have opponents, and in the Gospel Jesus puts in perspective our human desire always to be first.  As we Americans come to basketball's March Madness, we have another opportunity to witness the wild enthusiasms of competition.  And as in peace we must triumph over our adversaries, tragically, in war around the world our brothers and sisters suffer because some believe they must dominate others, or take what they want in violence.

Society could never have developed the good things we need -- more nourishing food, effective shelter and clothing, speedy transportation, and glorious works of music and art, unless our instinct to compete, to struggle, and to overcome obstacles found outlets in achievements that went beyond the ordinary. The Christian Brothers and Saint Aloysius footballers were just starting down the road to lives better than their parents knew. Taking an ax, hitting and sawing the opponent was metaphor, not the same as the violence that destroys a true enemy.

In daily life for most of us, we probably do not have real persecutors, plots against us; we may not need to be rescued from the clutches of our enemies.  The media remind us, however, that millions do, and we must remember them both with our prayers and actions to bring peace and justice where now there is the agony of anarchy and murder.

I suppose that psychologically, genetically, we are programmed to want to win -- for us males, perhaps, to be aggressive, to win at another's expense.  What flourishing society does not want its members to go higher, faster, farther, and win the medal for being first?  But I think Jesus tells us today that it is more important to do well what we can do and what we should do, finally not for championships and for ourselves but for those who need the products of our strengths and talents.  The real winners are not those with the obvious prizes, those who sit next to the powerful, but those who have to the best of their ability served others as Jesus did.

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