THE HOLY GOALIE

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. [Ephesians 6:10-12 (MSG)]

Several weeks ago, there was a story on the morning news about a youth hockey camp. When the sportscaster mentioned having a “holy goalie” in attendance, I stopped to listen. As it turns out, this was not a typical athletic camp but a faith-based one—one that combined sports and God. The aforementioned holy goalie was a Catholic bishop from downstate who loves hockey almost as much as he does Jesus!

Even the best goalie can’t make a save all of the time. Top hockey goalies Martin Brodeur, with 691 wins, and Patrick Roy, with 551 wins, manage to make saves only a little more than 90% of the time. Considering the age and vocation of the “holy goalie,” I doubt that his percentage of saves is anywhere that good. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a real Holy Goalie—someone who could keep the opposition—the enemy—from defeating us? We do, in fact, have a Holy Goalie and He has more defense moves than the priest, Brodeur and Roy combined. Our Holy Goalie isn’t an all-star athlete or even a presiding bishop; He is the Holy Spirit.

Of course, much of a goalie’s success or failure in stopping opposing goals has to do with his team and whether or not the players have played a good defensive game. Even with a truly Holy Goalie, like any good team, we must do our part. Before facing the opponents, hockey players suit up in a host of protective gear: shin guards, elbow pads, heavily cushioned hockey pants, shoulder pads and chest protector, protective gloves, “jock,” helmet, neck guard, mouth guard, and maybe even a face mask. Hockey is fast-moving, intense, rough and sometimes brutal; then again, so is life. We may not get body checked into the boards but circumstances can knock us down just as easily and the enemy can leave us just as bloody as a puck to the nose. Rather than padded clothing, when we suit up for the game of life, we must put on the armor of God to be protected by His truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, faith and word. In hockey, players can change “on the fly” but no one steps in for us in real life. We’ve got to keep going, playing our best, until the whistle blows. That’s where our Holy Goalie differs from a mortal one. He doesn’t just defend us when the enemy gets close to the goal; He acts as cheering section, general manager, coach, trainer, and team physician. Our Holy Goalie, like hockey’s referees and linesmen, also tells us when we’ve crossed the line, violated any rules or been guilty of unChristianlike conduct. While we have no need for a Zamboni driver, the Holy Goalie’s guidance can smooth the way for us better than any Zamboni. Thank you, God, for our Holy Goalie—your Holy Spirit!

Breath in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. [St. Augustine]

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. [Ephesians 4:30 (MSG)]

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