The truth is that God doesn’t care who wins or loses a football game (though a majority of Americans apparently think he’s got something to do with it). God doesn’t care who’s rich and who’s poor, or who wields power and who doesn’t. What God wants us to know is that apart from grace we are all powerless, that we have all suffered losses only he can restore. Regardless of our station or net worth, we’re all called to appropriate the beautiful words of the old hymn, written by Isaac Watts: “When I survey the wondrous cross / On which the prince of glory died / My richest gain I count as loss / And pour contempt on all my pride.”
This, at bottom, is the source of the Church’s “preferential option for the poor,” which could (and perhaps should) be amended to read, “preferential option for losers.” In the need and powerlessness of the poor, we recognize ourselves in relation to God. In identifying with those the world considers losers, we acknowledge the truth of who we are and imitate what God did for us in Christ. But the wisdom of God goes even deeper than that – in embracing our loss, in identifying with the poor, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). God turns the wisdom of the world on its head, so that “many who are first will be last and the last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).
In the Presentation narrative, Simeon thanks God for revealing Jesus, whom he calls “a light to the nations.” A couple of millennia later, the poet Leonard Cohen wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” God doesn’t want or expect a perfect offering from us; we couldn’t give it, anyway. He takes us as we are, with our cracks and broken pieces, ready to receive his light.
Next year around this time, I’ll be sitting in a tavern with my friends watching the Super Bowl. We’ll eat some wings, drink some Guinness, and feel the swell of pride when Tom Brady finally wins his fourth championship (you heard it here first). But thanks to Fr. Michael Marigliano, O.F.M. Cap., I’ll also remember that at bottom, all of us – me, you, my friends, even Tom Brady – are losers. Thanks be to God!
Mark Gordonis a partner at PathTree, a consulting firm focused on organizational resilience and strategy. He also serves as president of both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Providence, and a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Mark is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces: Essays By a Grateful Pilgrim. He and his wife Camila have been married for 30 years and they have two adult children.