I DID NOT know much about what football fans are like until the day I went to visit my uncle. Unlike my father, who never bothered much about football, my uncle could watch a match only under the right circumstances: total silence, beer, no phone, and a kind of sacred atmosphere that told everyone around that something great was going on.

My uncle not only watched the match. He participated in it. For some strange reason, he had the gift of omniscience by which he felt he had been bestowed upon the authority to tell the referee what to say and tell the players what to do.

At my tender age, that looked very irrational to me, since I already knew then that we can listen to what people say on television, but they cannot hear us. I always felt like telling that to my uncle but that was against the rules of football-watching.

The football fan likes people to know that his team is everything for him. He wears t-shirts that tell the world he supports his team. His car proclaims to the world that his team is the best in the world. His conversations become passionate when the theme is about the most important thing in his life.

But what surprises me about football fans is their loyalty. They suffer when their team loses; abandoning it for a better one is not an option. The sole purpose of being a football fan is to identify with your team and hope that it wins as many times as possible.

Sometimes I have the feeling that some Catholics belong to the church only as my uncle belongs to Real Madrid (or other football fans belong to Manchester United or Liverpool or Chelsea). They have all this kind of "Catholic paraphernalia" in their rooms, in their cars and their conversations become emotionally intense when it comes to "matches" the church might be playing at that time, be it the controversy between the pope and the Muslims or some political conflict with the church somewhere on the globe.

There is a difference between genuinely belonging to the church and being a church-fan. The church fan only wants the church to win. The member of the church wants humanity to win.

In 1 Pt 3:15, St. Peter tells us that we must be "always ready to answer with a reason for our hope." If you ask a football fan why he belongs to his team he will give you a story, not reasons. There is no reason to belong to this or that team. But if we believe, why we believe is because we believe it to be true. We believe it because we have better reasons. Church-fans may know a lot about the doctrine of the church but they use it as a weapon to win, not as reasons to be enlightened by. How reasonable is our Catholic faith? How reasonably do we present it to others? What are we proclaiming? What are the reasons for our belonging to the team of the church?

The Gospel tells us that Jesus leaves behind an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. When was the last time we changed our minds over a particular issue of faith? Are we reflecting, pondering, considering, and discovering new insights to make our faith more integrated?

The church is not playing against anybody. There is no match. There is one Truth, not many truths wrestling against each other. There is only One Spirit of Truth, not many. There is only one and the same spiritual thirst in each one of us searching for the only one Spiritual Solace who is God.

The world, contrary to popular belief, is not searching for material things. Insurance policies are spiritual benefits, they give people hope and tranquility. Mobile phones satisfy spiritual needs of company, communication and communion. I believe in the church, not because it solves different problems, but because she has the only satisfying answer to the ultimate problems.

The world and the church work for the same purpose: to serve man. Both struggle to give the best answers. In this struggle sometimes they disagree and this makes it look like they are "playing a match". They are not. They are just meeting together to achieve their one and same purpose. When the church misses a goal, humanity loses. When the world scores, the church wins. - Father David Garcia

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