The Raptors as Spiritual Guides
Like the rest of Canada, I was enraptured with the Raptors.
What appealed to me, in addition to their basketball aptitude, was the virtues they exhibited. The coach praised his men. Each athlete praised each other athlete on the team and never himself. They rejoiced in the community of the team.
Never did one say a disparaging word about another. I think they exemplified what Saint Francis of Assissi said: “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”
How did they preach the gospel? Kawhi Leonard must have been disappointed when he was traded to Toronto rather than to Los Angeles, his home town where he wanted to go. His trade came after most of a year in which he was not able to play because of injury. During that year he was maligned by the Press as an alleged malingerer and not wanting to play.
Yet on the day he was traded, or the day after, he text Kyle Lowry who was disappointed and angry that his good friend and teammate DeMar DeRozen had been traded to San Antonio, “Lets go out and do something special. I know your best friend left, so I know you’re mad, but lets make this thing work out”. He rose above his own disappointment to reach out to another hurting man. Much like Jesus did to Peter.
Leonard’s consistent stoicism, possibly born at 16 when he played a basketball game his coach told him he did not have to play the day after his father was murdered, and only then broke down and dried, modelled, whether he knew it or not, the scripture in Philippians 4.5 ,“ Let your moderation be known to all men”. As Thomas Merton says in New Seeds of Contemplation, “Very often it is the solitary who has the most to say..”
And then there was Kyle Lowry. When Kevin Durant collapsed with an achilles tear, Lowry was the first to reach his opponent and touch him with an emphatetic hand. “Love your enemies”. Matthew 5.44. In his media appearance after the game, Lowry described Durant as a “brother “ that they were members of the same (basketball) brotherhood
Throughout the games, I found myself admiring not only their athletic talent but also the magnanimity of their spirits. The Holy Spirit manifests himself/herself in many ways to assorted people.