ColumnsDisciple’s Corner

Can Cubs fans teach Christians something about discipleship?

So it turns out that Edward Sri is a Chicago Cubs fan after all — sort of.

In a chapter titled “The Struggle” from his book “Into His Likeness,” Sri says his dear Cubs are “the epitome of mediocrity” and “beloved losers.”

[ms-protect-content id=”1339,323,1059,1325,324,257,322,6459″]

And Christians, Sri writes, are sometimes like Cubs fans. “If we believe in God, show up to Mass each week, give up something for Lent, try to be good to others, and maybe even volunteer for something at the parish, we feel pretty good about ourselves. … But to strive to be a great Catholic? … [T]hat’s not for me.”

I’m wondering what you think about that because to me it sounds a little unfair to the Cubs, their fans, and many of us practicing Christians.

I remember many years ago working with a very difficult colleague. Annoying would be putting it mildly; aggravating would be getting closer.

But one day my wife (speaking as the true teacher she is) said to me something like, maybe they’re doing the best they can. You have no idea of how hard they’re trying or what they would be like if they stopped trying.

Radhi Al-Mabuk and Len Froyen make a similar point in their new book, “Gateway to Forgiveness and Beyond.”

At some point in learning to forgive, Al-Mabuk and Froyen write, we have to re-frame our perceptions of the person who offended us, trying to imagine the conditions or circumstances under which they acted as they did.

Identifying these causes does not excuse their hurtful behavior, or perhaps their responsibility for it, but it does help sometimes to explain it, and it may help us understand their behavior toward us in a broader, more understanding, perspective.

Dr. Sri says being disciples of Christ is hard work, and he imagines that a lot of us aren’t trying hard enough. He cites Pope Francis’ invitation to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus without acknowledging that most of the people who hung around our Lord were the kind of people others said weren’t trying hard enough.

Could we all try harder? No doubt. But let’s remember that we’re not working on a level playing field.

The point is, whether we’re speaking personally, socially, financially or spiritually, advantages and disadvantages, resources, abilities, even desire, are not spread evenly from person to person. What comes easily for some of us may be much more difficult for others; what comes easily to others may be much more difficult for us.

I think God, like a loving parent, understands this. God knows that some of the children require more patience and more mercy than others, for a whole lot of reasons that rise above simply being excuses.

Perhaps some of us (not unlike those epitomes of mediocrity at Wrigley Field) will always be God’s “beloved losers” who are trying as hard as we can.

What do you think?

Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discussion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how hard you are trying to be a better disciple? How would you have rated yourself five years ago?
  • Can you identify some of the personal or spiritual conditions or circumstances which make it difficult for you to be a better disciple? Are some of these causes or just excuses? Can you think of some one, or a certain group of people, you think aren’t trying hard enough? Can you imagine some of the conditions or circumstances which might limit their efforts?
  • I think most people …

Join the Conversation

Add your comments to this week’s discussion at

Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo. The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Faith Formation Division and The Witness. It is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board. It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.