Everyone’s getting ready to celebrate the Big Game and I’m not just talking about the Super Bowl. Sure, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest times of the year for get-togethers, meeting new people, and fun. But is also a time to remember some relationship advice about “the game of life” from one of its greatest players, St. Thomas Aquinas. He gives us three crucial aspects to win the Big game near his feast day, January 28.
The first aspect of winning the Big Game is Defense. Aquinas tells us the best defense is knowledge as knowing our teammates and playbook can keep our opponent, the Devil, from scoring. St. Peter reminds us of this, “your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8). In relating this to relationships, St. Thomas tells us that the more we know something, the more we understand it and so we can love it more. The Devil likes to confuse us, to instill doubt within us and our relationships and by doing this he can ruin our game plan. This is why knowledge is a crucial part of any game plan and why we must take the time to know ourselves, the people around us, and God’s will for our lives.
Events, like attending a Super Bowl party, are perfect time to do this as we can meet people and get to know things about them such as interests, favorite foods and teams. It also is the perfect place to start small talk, possibly get leads on jobs, or even get to know someone we may want to pursue in a deeper relationship. So we should take St. Thomas’ advice and run the “knowledge play” for an effective defense in the Big Game.
Next, St. Thomas tells us about the winning offense known as love. A good defense keeps its offense on the field, just as knowledge keeps love in play. In relationships, it is our knowledge of the one we love that allows us to love them in a deeper way. This is because the more we know about a person, the more we can fall in love with him or her. At the same time however, this love produces a new type of knowledge. When we love at a deeper level, we can know what they would like or dislike even without asking them. So we can see that the plays of knowledge and love work together and allow us to do various things for the other person that can make the relationship run more efficiently just as knowledge of a playbook and love for the game can allow teams to use audibles to call better plays or do better things. Thus, an offense that has knowledge of its own playbook and can recognize the opponents’ defense can call audibles or even take time-outs when necessary. Practically speaking, this means doing special things to strengthen the friendship or taking a time out if things are moving too fast. Again, our opponent the devil wants to destroy this relationship, so we may have to be centered in our good offense; in love so we can be able to react to the temptations of the Devil.
This leads to the last aspect of winning the Big Game, Special Teams. This, especially in make-or-break situations can be the difference between winning and losing. This aspect when it comes to relationships is known as the play called “Presence.” Knowledge and love are good, but they are perfected through the gift of presence. In any relationship, spending time with one another helps the relationship to grow; notice however that lack of Special Teams, or of Presence, often makes us lose the game or drives relationships apart. It is presence that makes a relationship real and Aquinas wrote a song about the Real Presence of God to remind us that God has this play in His Playbook as well. St. Thomas reminds us that the game-winning play in any Big Game is “Immanuel” for God is with us (Matt. 1:23) and “where two or more are gathered, there I am in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).
So we see that St. Thomas Aquinas gives us the three keys to winning the Big Game. He challenges us to have a strong defense with knowledge; a dynamic offense through love, and the game-maker of Special Teams which is exemplified through Presence. Let us use his coaching tips to go out and win the Big Game and in doing so, become true champions.