One in a billion! That’s me watching the World Football Cup on my TV, as did that estimated number of viewers all round the world. The contest itself, fought out in Brazil, grasped my attention and stretched my emotions… joy and dismay, laughter and tears, cheers and boos. Then towering over everything to do with Brazil, everything that had to do with this ‘football fiesta,’ was the massive mountain-top statue of Christ the Redeemer.
For an all too brief a moment this majestic statue of Christ the Redeemer was sharply silhouetted against a glowing, burnished copper sunset. Its beauty was breath-taking…absolutely mind-blowing! In that moment of grace I thought to myself that a nation that could erect such a huge and conspicuous statue must be fiercely and confidently proud of its Christianity!
With sadness and shame I next thought of those nations that have bowed to minority voices clamouring against the presence of religious symbols in public places! Their reason? The few find offensive what is deeply significant for the majority, or at least causes them no problem. And yet, during the World Cup Season Brazil was flooded with fans of every religious persuasion and of none. They could not help but see the statue itself and the myriad representations of it on wall-posters, T-shirts and tourist brochures. I am not aware of anyone making a big fuss about the ever-present pictures of the statue of Christ the Redeemer being offensive to their religious or non-religious sensibilities.
It now occurs to me that of the multi-million following the World Football Cup through radio, TV, newspapers and magazines how many individuals heard about Christ the Redeemer for the very first time in their lives; how many media people spoke of Christ the Redeemer for the very first time….all because of this statute located in Brazil where the World Cup Football Championship happened to be celebrated. There must have been some who were curious to know what so prominent a statue was all about; some who enquired who Christ is, and what is a Redeemer. Surely there would have been some who set out on the journey towards believing in Christ because of this statue. In the Acts of the Apostles we read of how Paul and Barnabas spoke of God opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, (14.27). I can’t imagine God, during these frenzied weeks of ‘Football Fever,’ wasting the opportunity of opening the door of faith to the whole world through the statue of Christ the Redeemer. I will venture further. This enormous statue, aloft, almost in the clouds, must have been visible for miles and miles. It would be fatuous to suggest that this statue presided over what was going on way below at ground level, but I dare to say that God, who made heaven and earth, continuously casts a benign eyes on all that goes on in our daily lives. I find I have to thank God that we were spared what we most feared for this World Cup– violent protests, organizational breakdowns etc. etc. That statue, lifeless stone that it is, has prompted me to think of Christ the Redeemer caringly watching over all that was going on, including the football matches.
Did He not come to us and make our human family His own family? Did He not promise to be with us until the end of time…even when we’re biting our finger-nails as we joyfully suffer the agonies of following the fortunes and misfortunes of the side we prayerfully support?!?!
Peter Clarke, OP