(Photo illustration by Phil Younk)

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Based on the Gospel of Luke, 13: 22-30
Local sport pages have been filled with news – the recent PGA golf tournament at Whistling Straits, the Brewers, the Packers and so on. The participating athletes are the all-stars in their sports.

Did you know God has an all-star team? The saints are the church’s all-stars. They loved God and others with all their hearts, followed God’s rules, studied the Scriptures and church teaching to learn about Jesus and served others in various ways.

Every team is made up of rookies and stars. The rookies are learning to be great players; the stars are established great players. You can read about the more famous stars in books about the lives of the saints. Saints like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Katharine Drexel, and St. Martin de Porres are in heaven.

Some saints, like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, died a few years ago. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and worked most of her life helping the poorest of the poor in India and other parts of the world. She often said it’s not that Jesus expects us to do big things, but he wants us to do little things with great love. There are many saintly people living among us who are wonderful examples of how to love God and others as Jesus taught us.

Heaven is where the all-stars reach their final victory – meeting and loving Jesus for all eternity. They then help the rookies on earth to become heavenly all-stars by praying for them.

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus says even though “the door” to the kingdom of heaven may be narrow, it is wide enough for all who wish to pass through. It is a matter of committing ourselves to God’s kingdom by lives of goodness and love. Jesus challenges us to make the choice. Faithful followers of Jesus will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.

We are the rookies learning to be great players. The rules to follow are God’s Ten Commandments. The playbooks to study are the Bible, the Catechism, and church teaching. The exercise, conditioning, and nutrition to keep in shape are prayer and the sacraments, especially holy Communion and reconciliation. We can ask the saints to pray for us.

We can be on God’s all-star team by loving God and neighbor with all our hearts. But, we need to practice, practice, practice – every day.

Final victory will be ours when we meet Jesus and all of our teammates in heaven for all eternity. Go for it!