Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Satanic Bicycling, Pagan Meats, and Yoga

August 10, 2017

Imagine if Satanists began ritually riding bicycles while chanting out to spirits other than God. (For them, this might symbolize rebellion against the three axles of the Godhead over whom they blasphemously enthrone themselves; stomping Christ underfoot while profaning the Trinity through the streets — or something like that.) Though silly to conceive, if Satanists actually began to do this, how would bicycling be affected?

First it should be noted that traditional cycling would remain what it is; its goodness as a healthy exercise and leisure activity would be unaffected. However, biking combined with false worship (whether done sincerely or ironically) would be harmful. If one of these satanic bicycling groups existed in our town, I would not ride with them. A Christian who silently biked along with the Satanists (to simply enjoy the ride) could be affected by the malevolent spirits invoked or cause scandal for others. I could still bike alone or with my friends, but we certainly would not voice unchristian chants while doing so. If I had formerly parked my bike by the church or rectory, I might begin placing it in a more private place, lest people be misled by misinterpreting my innocent behavior. This scenario is simply a thought experiment, but real Christians faced a comparable situation in the first century AD.

In the ancient Greco-Roman world, meats sold in marketplaces or served at restaurants had commonly been sacrificed to pagan gods. This gave rise to a debate within the church at Corinth, Greece about whether Christians could blamelessly eat such food or if this should be forbidden as second-hand idolatry.

St. Paul addressed this question in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, first observing “there is no God but one… even though there are so-called gods” worshiped by the pagans. St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warned that “what [the pagans] sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons.” Christians were never to offer pagan worship, but this did not mean pagan meat itself could not be eaten by well-formed Christians: “Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for ‘the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.’” But at the same time, a meat-eating Christian was to be careful not to cause scandal to others, leading them into actual idolatry. St. Paul wrote, “Make sure that this liberty of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak. … If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. But if someone says to you, ‘This was offered in sacrifice,’ do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; I mean not your own conscience, but the other’s.” That is how early Christianity handled the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. Today, we have a similar issue of live and local concern (which brings us to the ultimate purpose of this article.)

In our beginning, God created the human body, endowing it with sensation, flexibility, and strength. He designed every natural posture and movement and gave breathing and exercising their healthy and pleasurable effects. A long, long time after that, some of these bodily positions and exercises were appropriated by Hindus in India for the worship of their (so-called) gods and goddesses. In our time, this aspect of Eastern religion has entered into our culture as yoga. So, is it OK for Christians to practice yoga?

As with bike riding and meat eating, the unchristian use of good things does not taint them for everyone else forever after. Breathing and stretching are good gifts from God and, for some, yoga is simply exercise. Yet spiritual danger exists wherever and whenever these exercises are being joined to false spirituality or idolatrous worship.

I myself have participated in secular yoga workouts in the past. My exercise instructor was a faithful Christian and I enjoyed them. However, together with Catholic exorcists, I would never recommend attending a yoga group with non-Christian spirituality because of the real potential for spiritual harm and scandal. If a yoga class, for instance, chants mantras (like “om,” or the names of Hindu gods); envisions becoming one with the cosmos, Brahman, or the Earth Mother; channels energies; or has participants breathe in the pulsating universe while exhaling all bad and evil from within, then that yoga class is certainly of the second sort and to be avoided. If my instructor or peers were using yoga in a non-Christian spiritual way, I would avoid that gathering for the same reasons that I would not attend a pagan sacrifice or bike with Satanists: the prospect of causing scandal and the danger from evil spirits.

St. Paul once said we are to “retain what is good” but “refrain from every kind of evil.” That timeless wisdom applies to us in all things; to bicycling, to eating meat, and also to doing yoga.

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Wednesday, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 10, 2009

In the Gospel Jesus speaks of how great reversals are coming. The poor will become rich, and the rich will be poor. The hungry will be satisfied, and the stomachs of those now feasting will ache. The weeping will find joy, while those joyful will be sad. And those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake will have great rewards.

Does any of this apply to you? Yes, for example, life in the world out there will be very different from these years you’ve spent in school. If you feel like you are among the poor, the hungry, and the weeping at school, take encouragement, because great reversals are coming.

Blessed are you who are poor at sports,
for you perfect more-valuable talents.

Sports are fun, and they are good for building health and character, but ten years from now no one will remember who won at state last year. And it is extremely unlikely that anyone here has a future in professional sports ahead of them. Maybe nobody buys a ticket to come and watch and cheer you using your God-given talents, when you write a paper well, or solve a math problem efficiently. But in the world out there, there are people who will pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to people who have perfected skills like these.

Blessed are you who are poor at sports,
for you perfect more-valuable talents.

Blessed are you who hunger for romantic relationship, but who date little,
for God is preparing a spouse for you.

Realize that it is very unlikely that you ever marry any significant other whom you might have now. Young dating relationships begin and break all the time, but the sometimes wounds they can leave to one’s spirit and to one’s emotions often linger long. You may hunger for romantic relationship now, but if you feast on love before its time your stomach will ache painfully tomorrow. Somewhere out there, God has a future spouse in mind as a gift meant just for you. So preserve your purity and the unwounded integrity of your heart as a gift for your spouse, and you will feast on love together with great satisfaction.

Blessed are you who hunger for romantic relationships, but who date little,
for God is preparing a spouse for you.

Blessed are you who are unpopular,
for you discover how to be a true friend.

It’s true that after high school graduation, you won’t see most of these classmates very much anymore. You might keep in close touch with one or two of them, but most of them will move away from here, or you will move away from them. Don’t mourn thinking that you have too few friends. Christ wills that you would learn how to be a great friend, someone like Himself, rather than someone with great popularity who never knows true friendship. A person with few friends realizes the importance of always showing kindness, respect, and genuineness towards everyone, the popular and the unpopular alike.

Blessed are you who are unpopular,
for you discover how to be a true friend.

 And finally, take consolation in this…

 Blessed are you when peers dislike you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce you as un-cool or lame
on account of your faithfulness to Christ
for Christ’s opinion is the only one that really matters
and he will reward your faithfulness with happiness.