It’s About God, Not You; Kobe Knew That…

Sadly, Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, tragically died this week in a helicopter crash in California.

Many are unaware that there is a local connection, as Kobe was born in Philadelphia and was actually raised in a Catholic household. He then spent some of his youth in Italy and was drafted into the NBA and eventually married his wife, Vanessa, and they raised their children together, including Gianna, “Gigi” who sadly died with her dad.

In 2003, Kobe was accused of raping a woman in his hotel room, while he was in Colorado for required knee surgery. He did admit to having sex with this woman, but he vehemently denied rape. Those charges were eventually dropped, but the woman filed a civil lawsuit that was settled outside of court. In the midst of it all, Kobe issued a very difficult and public apology, clearly stating that he was sincerely ashamed of what he had done.

The incident had major consequences: sponsors abandoned him, his reputation was tarnished and a few years ago, Vanessa filed for divorce. Yet during one of the darkest moments of his life, Kobe turned to his Catholic faith and in an interview, he explained:

“The one thing that really helped me during that process — I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic, and I was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So, then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So, let it go.’ And that was the turning point.” (Ref GQ Magazine)

After some rough years, Kobe reconciled with his wife, and they remain married to this day doing great charity work and he was known as phenomenal dad who left work every day at 2pm in order to pick his children up at their school and then returned to work after spending some time with them every day. Throughout all of his trials, and perhaps even in response to them, Kobe realized that fame and fortune were nothing compared to the importance of faith and family. When everyone else in the world abandoned him, his Catholic faith was always there; a guide to give him hope.

You see, like Kobe, our faith should inform us – in all that we do and even in our darkest hours. Ask someone who has fallen away from our faith and you will find that often the number one reason they return is they miss the Holy Mass! It is what draws them back, time and time again, Holy Communion! It is the centrality of who we are, and we should remember that The Mass is never about you, it’s always about Bread and always about God.

The central act of our Catholic worship is the Mass. It is what we are, and it is why we exist. What the Mass is, is the self-sacrifice of Jesus to His Father on Calvary re-presented in ritual form. This ritual form is the perfect act of the virtue of religion, whereby we – You and I –  every Sunday – pay to God the worship that is His due and it is perfect because it is God Himself in the person of the Son, who pays worship to the Father. That is why whenever we come to Mass, even if we don’t receive Communion, our participation in it is still the perfect act of worship. When we leave, we are living tabernacles of the God we worshipped!

The news has been dark for us lately. Politics, impeachment, war, retaliation, and terrorism; hatred for persons different than another and even the natural world gives us the shortest days of the year in winter. There’s a deep sadness and darkness all around us; it’s pervasive. But whether we like it or not, this is the time Jesus has given us as His gift to do His will on Earth, and if we are at all honest, that time is running out. Perhaps the untimely and tragic death of Kobe Bryant will awaken us to see the time we have left is a gift, but how we spend that gift will be up to us.

I wonder, will we be like the wise virgins who are ready with lighted lamps to open wide the doors to their lover, or will we be like the foolish, so preoccupied with the passing things and the petty dramas of this world that we have neither oil nor light? Only to hear those dreaded words of the Lord, “I do not know you.”  The central act of what we are is beckoning us to be better, to do better, and to live better. Each time we consume the Blessed Sacrament, our life is to change for the better and the world then should be made better because of our presence – and His Presence – contained within us. We should be less selfish and more giving. Our faults will heal, and our blemishes be made lighter. But only if we willingly choose light.

Kobe knew that…

May he and Gigi, and their seven friends, John, Keri, Alyssa, Christina, Ara, Sarah, and Payton all rest well in eternal peace. 


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