The Day Before War Broke Out (A Football Match, 1939),
Painted by Paul Smith,
Painted in 2006,
Oil on canvas
© National Football Museum, Manchester

The Day Before War Broke Out (A Football Match, 1939),
Painted by Paul Smith,
Painted in 2006,
Oil on canvas
© National Football Museum, Manchester

Gospel of 29 November 2023

Your endurance will win you your lives

Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

Reflection on the painting

Let's look for a brief moment at the last sentence of our Gospel passage. Jesus says: 'Your endurance will win you your lives'. We associate the word 'endurance' mainly with the world of sports. In that context, endurance is all about the mindset and ability to sustain a certain intensity (running speed, physical effort, etc.) over a long period of time to reach a certain goal. Not just in today's reading but scattered throughout the New Testament we can find these 'athletic metaphors'.

Endurance in sport goes beyond mere physical strength; it involves mental resilience as well. Building endurance requires consistent training and a gradual increase in intensity over time, in order to achieve the long-term goal. These same parameters can be used for our Christian faith. Endurance in our faith required spiritual stamina and mental resilience, especially when we are navigating periods of crisis or doubt. Similar to consistent training in sports, we build up endurance through regular prayer, meditation and participation in the sacramental life of the church. Furthermore, just as an athlete needs to stick to the rules of his or her sport, we are also called to live our lives in obedience to the Scriptures and the teachings of the church. Actually, Paul writes on this, saying 'An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules' (2 Tim 2:5).

The spiritual life is also about self knowledge. Just as an athlete in training needs to know his or her body and its limits or weaknesses, so are we asked to get to know our 'true self' in the spiritual life and what our weaknesses, shortcomings or temptations are. Whilst there could be even more parallels drawn between the sports life and the spiritual life, probably the most important thing they share is the prime focus on the single aim. In the Christian life, this is very clear: to live in Christ.

Whilst there are many sporting artworks to chose from, I share with you a painting titled 'The Day Before War Broke Out (A Football Match, 1939)' by Paul Smith. As we are still in the month of November and remember the fallen soldiers, it is a good painting to look at at this time of year. Also the autumnal brown, restrained colour palette works well too.  We see the athlete players on the field. Their sole aim is to score a goal.

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Elvira
Member
Elvira
2 months ago

Estoy de acuerdo con lo que habéis dicho esta mañana (Mark, Niobe, Mike …), somos llamados a la confianza, ya que “no se perderá ni un cabello de nuestra cabeza”. Esta confianza es la que genera resistencia y perseverancia. Contamos con la promesa del Resucitado, que nos trasmite el libro del Apocalipsis: “Se fiel hasta la muerte y te daré la corona de la vida”

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
3 months ago

Two thoughts to share this morning.

First, “…you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom…”. To not prepare requires deep faith and trust. It also saves a lot of time and anxiety.

Second, the military and (many) sports are team enterprises. The art, Fr Patrick’s reflections, and the daily discussions by the CA community inspire and boost my endurance. As St Paul writes in Romans, “Endure in affliction, Persevere in prayer.” Thank you all.

Niobe Hunter
Member
Niobe Hunter
3 months ago

When I was very ill with a mysterious condition many years ago, during Sunday HC in Christchurch, I asked st Frideswide to intercede not for a cure but for the strength to bear the affliction.

My husband has lived with a health condition which could worsen and kill him for several years, and impacts his daily life.. He bears it with fortitude and patience.

I believed that that is a prayer which is almost always answered. I pray for everyone who needs them : Fortitude, Patience and steadfastness.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
3 months ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Thank you, Niobe. With prayers for you and your husband. Life is a marathon, isn’t it, Lord give us all the strength to get to the finishing line…

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
3 months ago

The wonderful thing about this site is you really never know what to expect! I have an ambivalent realtionship with football, and sport generally. I’m definately a spectator, though my exercise routine includes walking and swimming, I’m not a team player.

The painting itself isn’t great, the perspective is out and the hat on the man on the left looks awkward. The ball gets all the attention here, from both the players and the soldiers, all grateful I suspect, for the diversion. For me that’s what sport is, it provides an escape and gives our minds an alternative focus. My attention is drawn to the one man, though, whose head is bowed as he looks to the ground. We can guess what he may be thinking about, the challenges to come. To me this sums up both the reading and the painting.

It is easy to get bogged down in the challenges, and there are so many, but taking just that little time out is not just desirable but necessary and healthy for our souls.

This morning on my walk the rising sun was so bright I needed my strong sunglasses, and then on the return a full moon was still to be seen. I took some photos, especially as we had a deep frost, beautfully sparkly and cruchy beneath my feet!

Today’s psalm seems so coincidental:

‘Sun and moon! bless the Lord.
Give glory and eternal praise to him!’

Our PP is not so well. We should pray for our priests, wherever they are in the world, and pray that they too endure because without them we are lost, especially Father Patrick! Also an ex priest of our parish has also passed away, and so my prayer is that he has now ‘won’ his life after years of service and endurance. May he rest in peace.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
3 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Acepto tu propuesta: Recemos hoy por nuestros sacerdotes, pongamos ante el Señor sus inquietudes y sus necesidades

Last edited 3 months ago by Elvira
Will Howard
Member
Will Howard
2 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

And on behalf of priests – Fr. Patrick – thank you for your kind concern and prayers; it certainly is a strange and daunting time to be a Priest. But as Fr. has expressed so well today in his reflection, “Endurance in our faith required spiritual stamina and mental resilience, especially when we are navigating periods of crisis or doubt.” … in the world, and in the Church.

There is so much going on in Smith’s painting: color, tone, spatially, composition and yes subject matter – not to mention seemingly intentional subtle oddities – the button hat and flayed leg, characterized players, the fence of soldier’s backsides … the one fellow who takes our eye into the top of the panel, so different from the bottom: “Light Vs. Darkness” – that you’ve all sense as ‘looking down’. I may have prefaced the title “Caps and Bags, The day before…”

As notably a ‘sports’ artist’ – especially boxing – Smith’s images are meant to get under your skin I think. He’s not so much interested in details as much as the image’s provocativeness … asking/inviting the viewer to step back from life’s reality a little and re-ascertain.

In the Gospel today Jesus is doing something very similar. If we question the details: “…some of you will be put to death….but not a hair of your head will be lost.”, we miss His point. The thing is, as these times get grayer and more daunting ‘before the house of cards come tumbling down’ , it makes no sense to: turn our backs … pack our bags … and get caught up in wars and rumors of wars. Instead, ” Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defense, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom” .

Oh that we might be found “looking UP” …especially as priests prophets and kings.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
3 months ago

Really like this painting and those men, all absorbed in the game – except the chap in the middle here. He can’t give it that attention – there’s too much on his mind…

Anthony
Member
Anthony
3 months ago

There has not been such persecution of christians, in recent years in 62 out of 196 countries. 75% of those persecuted for their faith are Christian.
In Saudi Arabia no churches are allowed, conversion to Christianity is punishable by death. There are 70,000 Christians in prison for their faith in North Korea. Owning a bible can mean death.
In Nigeria 5000 were killed in 2022 and thousands more were kidnapped.
Pakistan and India girls are kidnapped and forced into marriages with men more than twice their age.
Catholic churches are vandalised and desecrated across the world.
It is important to make ourselves aware. GB News are the only UK channel to have reported on it.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
3 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

El papa Francisco dice que hoy en día hay más mártires que en los primeros siglos de la Iglesia, mueren por dar testimonio de Jesús y son muchos.
Gracias por la información

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
3 months ago

Jesus has just prophesied bad news to his disciples. Persecution and betrayal is coming. But he ends with good news… your endurance will win your lives.

No matter how dire the situation, there is always good news. Dear friends have just received bad news for one of them from their doctor. In their own words, it has rocked them. However, they are believers which means the good news in today’s gospel is still theirs to hold on to.

Thank you Jesus for giving my friends, and me, good news to hope for today. I place my trust in you.

Elizabeth Hampton
Member
Elizabeth Hampton
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Having heard such a diagnosis for my husband I know exactly how it feels. For me, it has only served to strengthen my faith and, indeed, brought me to this wonderful website via Universalis which has become a mainstay. All I can offer is a prayer for your friends and you to gain that endurance which will be so necessary and continue to derive peace, comfort and healing from belief in God. May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our hope in you…

Tina Shaw
Member
Tina Shaw
3 months ago

With faith, hope

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Sometimes it is harder to accept news like this when it impacts on our friends and family. We feel so helpless, but ‘our help is in the name of the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth.’

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Lord be with Mike’s friends and Elizabeth’s husband in this trial. Give them endurance to hold fast to you. Amen

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