On Pokémon GO and Entering the Narrow Gate

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The Narrow Gate

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

POKÉMON GO! I came to know about the game back when it was first released in the US. I was so naïve at that time and doesn’t know anything about it. Then when we went to the Great Mall together with some friends, we saw tons of people both young and old crowding at a certain location they call a Pokéstop. Seeing more people there than usual, I asked someone what was going on and while this someone was busy throwing Poké balls to catch Pikachu, he looked at me suspiciously and said, “Don’t you know there’s a “lure party” today?” I was still clueless with that answer until I was told that the party was in fact, an event where Pokémon trainers (as they call themselves) gather together to catch Pokémons at Pokéstops with unlimited “lure modules.” It was for them an occasion TO CATCH, TO TRAIN and TO WIN BATTLES!

Wow, isn’t it amazing? I think that if we have the same enthusiasm in our spiritual life as when one plays Pokémon Go, we don’t need to ask the same question as one of Jesus’ disciples asked in today’s Gospel, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus did not directly answer the question. Instead, he gave a proposition, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” If Pokémon Go was existing during that time, Jesus would have used the same words: CATCH, TRAIN and WIN BATTLES! Allow me to give a spiritual flare to this frenzy:

CATCH. The tagline “You gotta catch ‘em all!” is very known to Pokémon trainers. How do you catch? By basically going out to the “Augmented World - AR” – where challenges are great and where real battles are fought. But such world though “augmented” is not the “real … real WORLD.” In the spiritual world, what Jesus actually meant for us to do is to go out and SEE what is truly happening around us. Only then will we realize what needs our attention … what needs catching!

A true story was reported about a guy from Davao, Bon Vallite that while he was trying to catch Pikachu under the heat of the sun, he saved a man’s life from Tagum suffering from a heatstroke. I say it was very heroic of him to do that and thanks to the game that accidentally brought him there. But come to think of it: Is this the only need that needs “catching?” Do we simply help people by accident? Look at what’s being reported at the daily papers: the beggars on the streets; the evacuees brought about by the monsoon season; and maybe, a fellow family member grieving over someone special in his or her life. These are only a few things that need “catching” and we can only catch them if we truly SEE the real world more deeply and not just at the periphery.

TRAIN. There is that Aristotlean principle which says, Nemo dat quod non habet,” “You cannot give what you do not have.” In other words, you cannot go out there to catch unprepared. In the game Pokémon Go, it is inadvisable to send a Pokémon with low Combat Power (CP) to battle a Pokémon with a high Combat Power for obviously, it will lose. Same principle even in our spiritual life. Our friendship with God gives us power and the will to overcome daily battles in life. And as we develop that relationship, we increase our “Combat Power,” not by catching Pokémons to acquire more stardust, but by an increased prayer and sacramental life which give us the graces we need. Training entails hard work. Just like an athlete, who trains for the Olympic, the training isn’t just for a day.

Bishop Fulton Sheen tells us that we will have three surprises in Heaven. The first surprise: We will be surprised to see that many people we expected to be in Heaven are not there. St. John of the Cross gives the reason why they are not there: “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on how we have loved.” The second surprise: We will be surprised to see that the people we never expected to be in Heaven are there. That is because God judges man’s intentions and rewards them accordingly. The third surprise: We will be surprised to see that we are in Heaven. Since our getting to Heaven is principally God’s work, we should be surprised that God somehow “went out of His way” to save us, simply because we showed the good will and generosity to cooperate with His grace.

Our training, therefore, is empowered by God. We can be our very best with Jesus by our side.

TO WIN BATTLES. Jesus said in the Gospel, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Striving in Greek is, “agonizomai.” You can hear the word “agony” just by hearing it. It entails giving of our selves fully in order to enter through the narrow gate. I have always emphasized how the cross is part of our Christian identity for so indeed it is! It is said that “God does not give us a burden which we cannot carry.” If we give our best in everything that we do, we can win our daily battles in life. Our lifeline … our lifeblood is always with God. Without it, we cannot become true winners … we cannot become true MASTERS in the Game we call life!

Now, who is a true winner? Let me read a shortened version of this quote:

The Winner is always part of the answer; the Loser is always part of the problem.

The Winner always has a program; the Loser always has an excuse.

The Winner says, “Let me do it for you”; the Loser says, “That is not my job.”

The Winner sees an answer for every problem; the Loser sees a problem for every answer

The Winner says, “It may be difficult but it is possible; the Loser says, “It may be possible but it is too difficult.”

When a Winner makes a mistake, he says, “I was wrong”; when a Loser makes a mistake, he says, “It wasn’t my fault.”

A Winner makes a commitment; a Loser makes promises.

Winners have dreams; Losers have schemes.

Winners say, “I must do something; Losers say, “Something must be done.”

Winners are part of the team; Losers apart from the team.

Winners see the gain; Losers see the pain.

Winners see the possibilities; Losers see the problems.

Winners believe in win-win; Losers believe for them to win someone has to lose.

Winners see the potential; Losers see the past.

Winners are like thermostats; Losers are like thermometers.

Winners choose what they say; Losers say what they choose.

Winners used hard arguments but soft words; Losers used soft arguments but hard words

Winners stand firm on values but compromise on petty things; Losers stand firm on petty things but compromise on values.

Winners follow the philosophy of empathy: “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you”; Losers follow the philosophy: “Do it to others before they do it for you.”

Winners make it happen; Losers let it happen.

Ultimately, as God says to the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading, “They shall come and see my glory.” In order to SEE His glory, he will set a sign – a guidepost on our way. God will not leave us alone. He will always be on our side. Through Him, with Him and In Him we can win our daily battles!

Addendum: Part of the Pokémon theme song says:

Every challenge along the way
With courage I will face
I will battle every day
To claim my rightful place

Our rightful place is heaven. Let's do our best to claim it!

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