Browsing Pastor's Corner

Presentation Homily and Kobe

Feb 4, 2020

Born in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant was raised in a Catholic household, he eventually married Vanessa Laine at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dana Point, California. 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 his dreams.

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.

The incident had major consequences as numerous sponsors abandoned him and his reputation was tarnished. In 2011, his wife filed for divorce.

As much as today’s celebration of the Presentation is about light it is also a reminder of purification: having to be cleansed from the terrible stain of sin. According to the law from Leviticus in the Old Testament, the mother's impurity lasted 40 days after the birth of a boy, after which she went to the temple, and in order to be declared purified, made her offering of purification.

And what is the nature of the impurity…original sin. As we hear from the great Penitential Psalm 51: Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me.

Perhaps having it removed from our soul during Baptism we pay its consequences little mind…but though the stain is gone the pain lingers.

It’s like losing someone to a tragic accident…you can forgive the person who caused it…but the pain stays in place wreaking all sorts of emotional, mental and spiritual havoc.

Was Mary subject to this law of purification?

No, for she had not, like other mothers, conceived in sin, and, therefore, did not need purification; but she placed herself with her divine Child among sinners and fulfilled the law by which these were bound.

And no wonder she would suffer that awful wound to her heart. Her pain wasn’t so much that her Son suffered…it was the nature of that suffering…our sin…if it were just his own suffering she could stand it…what breaks the Heart of God is not so much that we sin and harm Him…it is that we sin and inflict such damage upon ourselves…

With Christ on the Cross…it is not so much Him saying…look at what you have done to me as look at what you have done to yourselves…how ugly you have made what I have created in my own perfect and beautiful image and likeness…As this reflection strongly captures regarding Kobe’s legacy and the legacy of original sin:

"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.
AdvertisementI 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 healing, growth and redemption."

Today reminds us, why we must acknowledge the severity of our own sins first and foremost and not be so distracted by other’s sins…as though that lets us off the hook for killing Christ with our sins…after all, it’s not like I killed someone…that mentality doesn’t fly standing before the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Redemption is an ugly awful terrible process…but one we must all engage in…and as much as we want to put this person in Hell and that person in Hell…with our history of sin…our history of having little to no relationship with Christ unless it is Christmas or Easter…might we be leading the way into those flames…

we cannot be rock throwing Catholics…let He who is without Sin cast the first stone…and last time I checked though she had every right to, given the Old Law…Mary did not pick up those stones but allowed them to be thrown in the form of scourges, thorns, spittings, punches and nails at her Son…feeling each blow of the hammer of all our sins coming down with persistent and growing force upon her Maternal and Immaculate Heart…

one of the great depictions of that pierced Heart moment of Mary: the Pieta…holding not just her dead child and dead God in her lap…but all of us who eventually because of the scourge of sin and hatred of the devil will experience that agony of dying and death…or own certainly, those we love and those we don’t love…don’t respect…dislike…are indifferent to but ever remain precious children of Mary…precious and adored children of the Father…precious and worth dying for and redeemed by our big Brother and Savior Jesus Christ.

And if Mary’s heart is pierced at the moment when Christ’s heart is literally pierced on Calvary…we must allow our heart’s to be pierced by the sin and suffering that is in the world…and what must our response to it be…did Mary and Jesus the only two perfect people ever condemn and call for all of us to be plunged into Hell? When in fact they had every right to demand it…or as with any Mother and as with only Christ our Savior did they instead insist…Father forgive them for they know not what they do…

After some rough years, Kobe Bryant reconciled with his wife, and they remained married. Together they have 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 assisting 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.

The legacy of sin yes but the more enduring legacy of Redemption…during one of the darkest moments of his life, Kobe Bryant turned to his Catholic faith. In an interview 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. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”

Throughout all of his trials, and perhaps even in response to them, Bryant has 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.

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…Like Mary and Joseph taking Christ to the Temple, they as all Catholic Parents must, 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."

Having received Christ and boarding that Helicopter…ten people were on board…the tenth person…Jesus Christ…who said…Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him… And I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

 

 

 

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