The Testimony of George Foreman

George Foreman was the commencement speaker for the graduation ceremonies at the University of St. Thomas, Houston. Yes, the boxer and businessman, George Foreman. Well, he is from Houston, a successful businessman, and a preacher. And, of course, he was two time world heavy weight champion and 1968 Olympian gold medalist.

He delivered his testimony about coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. George Foreman delivers a powerful and personal witness to the presence of Jesus Christ and the transformation of his life.

I was struck how his testimony confirmed Pope John Paul II’s account of “sin, righteousness, and judgment,” spoken about in an earlier blog. Recall this passage: “every sin wherever and whenever committed has a reference to the Cross of Christ–and therefore indirectly also to the sin of those who ‘have not believed in,’ and who condemned Jesus Christ to death on the Cross.” §31
Foreman came to see that he must refer his life to Christ on the cross after a boxing defeat. As he lay in the dressing room, half unconscious, he felt lost and forlorn, as if adrift and sinking in the dark waters of an ocean, when the hand of Jesus pulled him out. And then he felt a crown of thorns on his head and nail wounds in his hand. The blood was the blood of Christ.
This is a good message for the graduates to hear. Catholics rightfully like to hear about social justice issues, or metaphysics, or faith and culture, beauty. But we may forget the simple basis of it all — faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his power to save the sinner and transform lives. Foreman reminded me of my initial attraction to Charismatic Catholics when I was a young college student. They would ask directly of any one they met (including the author of this blog at age 18 years old) “Is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life?”
Culture, metaphysics, social justice — all look somewhat different depending on how you answer this question. We talk about “faith and life,” “faith and culture,” “faith and reason” — but these are not abstractions or mere principles. Faith refers concretely to personal faith in Jesus Christ. There is no “Faith and ____” without faith. So there is no Catholic university without men and women with concrete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It strikes me that when we hire new faculty members, rather than ask for some vague acceptance of the principles of Ex corde ecclesiae, we should ask instead, “is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.” And then our colleges may be transformed.
A more elaborate form of the question and answer is provided by a Catholic spiritual writer, who once wrote: “does Jesus give my life its purpose, its value and its radiance? Can I declare that if he were to disappear from my life I should simply disappear too? Christ Jesus is my life . . Without him I should be sunk in sin, but his mercy has cured my faults and shown me my worth as a child of God. He alone saves me from mediocrity, sustains my flagging energy and makes me accept the high price of virtue. My life is the crucified and risen Jesus.” Georges Chevrot, On the Third Day (Dublin, 1961), p. 186.
George Foreman stands as a rough sign of the profound truth of conversion and transformation. And he sure scored a knockout punch with his parting words to the graduates — “Do not forget Jesus Christ.”


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