From The Pastor’s Desk
– Kobe Bryant Lent –
Having grown up with two older brothers the running argument had always beenwho is betterwho is the bestI’m better than you, but as the saying goesany one can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?
After all who doesn’t want to be considered great if not the greatest? We continue to celebrate Black History Month, and why is that? To memorize more names and dates no, to be in-spired by great men and women so that we can lead inspiring and celebrated lives ourselves. But as these people remind us, it takes a lot of hard work to be just good but to be great, well that requires lots or really hard work and something we call sacrifice. Now we also happen to be celebrating something else this month and next month, the Church season we are now in Lent and Lent well, Lent is all about getting our great on because we have been created to be the absolute best, not just heroes and champions but something even greater, SAINTS! How so well in that similar inspiring spirit of Black History Month and Lent, I would like to share with you a story. Sadly a year ago last month, Kobe Bryant and his daughter and 7 others died in a helicopter crash. Prior to that, on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest athletes of all time, ended his 20-year basketball career with a bang, scoring 60 points in his last game. Five-time NBA champion, two-time Olympic champion, 18-time All-Star and the third leading scorer in NBA history now that’s great, but is there something greater than even that? Born in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant was raised in a Catholic household, he eventually married Vanessa Laine at St. Ed-ward Catholic Church. Two years later they had their first child. Bryant was at the top of his game and everything seemed to be heading in the direction of all his dreams coming true. Then he made a big mistake. In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in his hotel room. He admitted having sex with the woman but denied the assault. The woman went on to file a civil lawsuit against Bryant that was settled outside of court. In the midst of it all, he issued a public apology, stating that he was sincerely ashamed of what he had done. Never had Kobe encountered a greater opponent, not an-other team, but something called sin in basketball a sin is the equivalent of a foul a foul hurts oneself but more so one’s whole team, and it gives the edge to one’s opponent so they stand a better chance of beating you and no one likes to lose let alone being the cause for losing.As this journalist’s reflection captures so succinctly that ten-sion between sin and redemption: “I think Kobe Bryant meant a lot to many of us black folks, for complicated reasons. I also believe he got away with sexual assault. I also think he was a great dad. I also think he was one of the greatest players to play the game. I also know that sexual assault survivors will be triggered and traumatized by this public lionization. I also know that even though I resented his seeming selfishness and political apathy in his early years, he grew into a type of maturity in his personal life and in his philanthropic endeavors that surprised me in a positive way. I also don’t think that this erases the deep trauma he caused. I also believe in heal-ing, growth and redemption.” Now every basketball player good or great fouls, but what matters most is how one responds to those fouls be more careful and play with greater focus don’t give up and don’t give in and this is what Lent is all about how we respond to the reality that we sin, make mistakes and are sinners. What did Kobe do? During one of the darkest moments of his life, Kobe Bryant turned to his Catholic faith. In an inter-view he explained: “The one thing that really helped me during that process — I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic — was talking to a priest who looked at me and said: ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now.’ And that was the turning point.” One of the greatest sacraments there is and how best to have a Championship Lent is making a good Confession, it takes you off the bench and puts you back into the action of helping your team and yourself become better. A good confession means we are reconciled to God and everyone else, to be reconciled means to heal and repair the damage caused by hurting oneself or others. In addition to being reconciled to God after some rough years, Kobe Bryant reconciled with his wife, and they remained married. And what did they do? Another great Lenten practice helping others! Together they founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which is dedicated to, among other things, helping young people in need, encouraging the development of physical and social skills through sports and assist-ing the homeless as Kobe shared. At the end of my career, I don’t want to look back and just say, “Well, I had a successful career because I won so many championships and scored so many points.” There’s something else that you have to do with that. [The homelessness] issue is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because it’s easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, “Well, you made that bad decision. This is where you are. It’s your fault.” In life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it that’s not right.” Throughout all of his trials, and perhaps even in response to them, Bryant realized that fame and fortune were nothing compared to the importance of faith and family. When everyone else in the world abandoned him, the Catholic Church was always there. And when you have Christ in your life, in your home and in your relationships then people like Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife can share with the world as a way of inspiring others what true greatness is in her own words. “Now for my soulmate. Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time. I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of my children. Kobe and I have been together since I was 17-and-a-half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was charismatic, a gentleman, he was loving and adoring and romantic. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows. We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people raising a beautiful family. He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough. He always knew there was room for improvement and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father, a father that was hands on and present. I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was. The kind of man that wanted to teach future generations to be better and keep them from making his own mistakes. He always liked work-ing and doing projects to improve kids’ lives.” Kobe Bryant knew the perfect remedy for all that ails us and the world, and he and his wife made sure their children would participate in what that remedy is they took their children to Mass as was reported that morning prior to the tragedy: Cristina Ballestero described seeing Bryant at Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange. She recalled looking up to see the basketball star sitting in her pew. “As we went up to Communion, he waited for me to go,” she recalled, adding that he complimented her on having a “beautiful singing voice.” She continued: “His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision.” Sins and mistakes are powerful but its power has limits mercy is more powerful and has no limits since we receive this gift of greatness from an infinitely loving God this is the great experience of Lent. Making a good Confession during Lent, going to Mass and helping others is always a slam dunk certified way of be-coming someone greater than a champion becoming the Saint that Coach Christ knows we can become.