July 11: prayer, footballers and st augustine

Footballers, especially those from South America and Africa, are religious people. Catholic or muslim, before they start a match they look up to the heavens and pray. With God’s help, they say, we will win this match. The trouble is, even god can’t make both sides win. You sometimes think that at the end of the match when Brazil have lost, say, what are the players thinking about god’s participation. Did he forsake them in their hour of need?
It is at such times that we turn to St Augustine, who explains about suffering, deserved or undeserved: “For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brighter, and chaff to smoke, under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed…so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked.” (City of God)
So, the same suffering is imposed on virtuous and evil alike, but for Brazil, losing 1-7 against Germany, the suffering is there to purge and clarify them. In brief, it is all part of a greater good. Augustine of Hippo himself would have been an Algeria supporter. I wonder how he would have reacted to the painful exit at the hands of the Germans.

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