The road to the pennant and the road to salvation are frighteningly similar.
Every February, 30 teams report to their spring training homes with the same goal: Win the pennant. For six months, teams compete, succeed, struggle, overcome, fail, and persevere with the hopes that their successes will outnumber their failures, that their ascent to fundamental, hard, honest baseball dominates. Above all, they want to win.
In the spiritual life, the waters of baptism are our spring training home. We go there to begin our season of faith. From there we spend our lives practicing the fundamentals of the sacramental and ecclesial life, we fall, we succeed, we work like madmen to overcome our concupiscence and live a life of grace and virtue. Above all, we put our faith and hope in Christ and in His promise of Eternal Life, and we battle for our salvation, just like St. Paul (1 Cor 9:24-27):
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
In the Eastern tradition of the Catholic faith, particularly in the Church Fathers, there is an understanding of the spiritual life being a divinization, rather than the common parlance of sanctification in the Western tradition. Basically, when we become holier, more grace-filled, more virtuous, we become more like God. I'll let St. Athanasius explain:
The Word Incarnate, as is the case with the Invisible God, is known to us by His works. By them we recognise His deifying mission. Let us be content to enumerate a few of them, leaving their dazzling plentitude to him who will behold.
As, then, if a man should wish to see God, Who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, he may know and apprehend Him from His works: so let him who fails to see Christ with his understanding, at least apprehend Him by the works of His body, and test whether they be human works or God’s works. 2. And if they be human, let him scoff; but if they are not human, but of God, let him recognise it, and not laugh at what is no matter for scoffing; but rather let him marvel that by so ordinary a means things divine have been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal Providence has been known, and its Giver and Artificer the very Word of God. 3. For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; (emphasis added) and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impossible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility. (On the Incarnation of the Word, no. 54)
Though this notion of divinization (or theosis) was not promoted by all of the Greek Fathers, it was taken up with particular intensity by St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who wrote:
Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as man's nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from his ascent from hence, and for his deification there, which is conferred by true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter, through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity. (Oration 21)
Even though it appears that the origins and strongest understanding of divinization lie to the East, St. Augustine, the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers, argues extensively for "deification." In his book, The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification, Fr. David Meconi, SJ, argues that Augustine's life and works prove his point that we are all created to become Christ, to become the fullness of the Imago Dei. Though I haven't had the opportunity to read the book, I have read a lot of Augustine and can't help but agree with Fr. Meconi's thesis.
This call to become like God, to be drawn into the divine nature through contemplation and the graces pouring forth from it, is, in essence, the call of every Christian. We choose to take on this life when we enter the waters of Baptism, when we present ourselves worthy of the reception of the Blessed Sacrament, when we step foot into and out of the confessional. Our life should be, must be geared toward becoming one with God. The true ball player steps onto the field each spring with one goal: Win the pennant. The true disciple should steps forward each day with one goal: Become like God.
With all of that in mind, here are the Theology on Deck playoff predictions:
Br. Patrick's Picks:
NLDS: STL over PIT & LAD over ATL ALDS: BOS over CLE & OAK over DET
NLCS: STL over LAD ALCS: OAK over BOS
World Series: STL over OAK in 6
Br. Wesley's Picks:
NLDS: PIT over STL & LAD over ATL ALDS: TB over BOS & OAK over DET
NLCS: LA over PIT ALCS: OAK over TB
World Series: LAD over OAK over in 6