Resurrection House Blog: The Soccer Group
The Soccer Group
Whether we won or lost, we still had a soccer party.
When my siblings and I were about three years old, my parents first signed us up for a youth soccer league. This resulted in every Friday night a group of six to seven families would come together, watch their children play soccer, and afterwards we would have a soccer party.
Over the years, these kids I played soccer with became my closest friends through elementary school and a few still to this day. As the children of the soccer group became close, so did our parents.
A particular family we are friends with today is the Stacks. The Stack family dynamic is best described through their involvement and hilarious talent in theater, which is best explained in Emily Stack’s first goal in soccer. Now, remember we were about 6 or 7 when this happened.
The game was tied, and we needed to score to win. It seemed like there was only 2 minutes left in the final quarter, and Emily was put on offense. Emily didn’t normally play offense. And I think it’s safe to say that Emily really enjoyed the soccer parties rather than the soccer playing.
Regardless, Emily was put on offense. She was passed the ball. She kicked it passed the goalie, right into the back of the net scoring the winning goal.
And immediately her hands shot into the air clenched with power, and she threw her head back in celebration. I ran over to congratulate her, and realized she was crying, which I thought was unusual. So I asked her why, and she dramatically replied with tears streaming down her face, she was just so happy.
The entire Stack family was involved in theater. Mr. Stack was particularly hilarious, with a personality to fill the room and beyond. He was always making us laugh by speaking in character voices or making funny faces. Unfortunately, when I was almost 12, soccer ended a while back, Mr. Stack was on a business trip, and died suddenly from a major heart attack.
I don’t remember a lot of details, but I remember the entire soccer group, kids and parents, spent a lot of time together over the course of that week. It seemed as if we were always at either the Stack’s house or the funeral home, and then the funeral service. During the service, the soccer families were sitting close together. I was in a pew with my siblings and parents. Near the end of the service, I looked over at my Mum, and realized she was trembling.
She was crying. I was in disbelief.
All week I had seen her as a pillar of strength trying to help Mrs. Stack and her kids anyway she could, as well as taking care of her own children. At that age, it didn’t even occur to me that my Mum, beneath her strong will of compassion to support others she was experiencing sadness. She too was mourning the loss of her friend.
In joy and in sadness, both coming from completely different experiences, we are known to cry. Crying reveals our inner selves, and is a very human physical response to how and what we feel in our everyday lives.
In the gospel we meet a family who were particularly close to Jesus, and they are mourning. We are introduced to two sisters, Martha and Mary, crying over the loss of their brother Lazarus. Since this family was close to Jesus, they sent him a formal report prior to Lazarus’s death stating, “Lord, he the one you love is ill”. The “one you love” referring to their brother Lazarus. By using this phrase it signifies the deep friendship Jesus and Lazarus had.
Because Jesus was a healer, it was inferred that by sending him that message he would come right away to heal their brother. But Jesus waits two days before traveling there, and by the time Jesus arrives Lazarus has been dead for a total of four days. This is critical to piece to the story. In that time, the Jewish belief was for three days the soul of the departed would hang around the body hoping to reenter it. Which means when Jesus arrives in Bethany, Lazarus is considered really dead, and there would be no way to revive him.
Now both Martha and Mary both greet Jesus using the same words, but both in different fashions. They both say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They do not say this out of anger, but in an understanding way. They don’t blame Jesus for Lazarus’ death because he wasn’t in Bethany prior to Lazarus’s death. Therefore they felt like there wasn’t an opportunity for Lazarus to be healed by Jesus.
Even though Jesus didn’t make it “in time”, Martha assures Jesus she hasn’t lost faith in God or him by saying, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him” She said these words to affirm her belief that Jesus did all that he could and still has confidence in him.
Where Martha seemed composed in mourning, based on scripture Mary her sister, was not composed at all. Mary ran to Jesus wailing and crying with more mourners wailing and crying with grief following her.
Seeing such sorrow and pain on their faces, Jesus does the unexpected. In the scripture it states, “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved . . . and Jesus began to weep.”
Jesus began to weep.
Like me seeing my mother cry, the disciples were witnessing their own pillar of strength, their teacher, their guide crying over the loss of his friend.
Jesus even knows that he is about to perform a miracle. He is going to resurrect Lazarus, but he cries anyway.
How can this be, our God incarnate crying?
Jesus was crying because he felt the loss of a loved one, a friend of his. He wasn’t crying WITH Martha and Mary, not FOR them. Jesus felt and understood the death of his friend Lazarus just like they did. Christ could have been passive, instead he was able and willing to express the same emotions we feel.
Although completely divine, Jesus shows us the humanity of God through his tears. Through this act, we witness God’s compassion, understanding, and feeling of the devastation of death as we feel it.
We are on the last stretch of our journey from the mountain top to the cross. And week after week we’ve met an individual that revealed to us a part of Christ’s teachings. In which our relationship with God became clearer and grew stronger with every person we met.
And this opportunity doesn’t end with these readings or in Lent, but actually happens every day, if we take the time to look and listen for it. On our own journeys, through the relationships we have with our friends, family, whoever we encounter daily we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with God by reflecting the compassion and love of God to others.
God feels how we feel. God is with us when we are crying in celebration of a goal we make in soccer. And God is there when we are suffering the death of a loved one. God is always with us and feels what we feel.
Finishing our Lenten journey may we pray a phrase given to me by my past youth director, “May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and may everyone you meet may see the face of Christ in you.”
– Alyse Viggiano