Like many I was stunned by the untimely death of Kobe Bryant on January 26th, 2020. He was killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter GiGi, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Arah Zobayan. Kobe was only 41 years old. He left an amazing athletic legacy. His everyday legacy was more complicated and, in my eyes, much more beautiful.
Kobe Bryant's legacy is one of sin, redemption and (we hope) salvation. In this respect his legacy is no different than my own. He occupied a unique niche in the world - a famous man of color who, mired in sin and suddenly confronted with its consequences chose to turn back to the Truth of his Catholic Faith and get to work. He did not rely upon a false doctrine to try and mitigate what he had done - sexual immorality at the least, sexual violence against a woman at the most - but rather he faced his sin and took action. Kobe moved forward. He spent his time doing penance and making amends and reaching out to other athletes to make himself available as a mentor to them when life handed them a huge slap in the face. Don't believe me? Listen to Richard Sherman's memories of Kobe and then watch him make the Sign of the Cross on the sidelines before the game on Sunday.
I am partial to these legacies because it is the one I will leave. While I am not a person of color or famous I absolutely understand what it means to be confronted with one's own failings and knowing without a doubt that if I was to die right then the message I would hear from my Lord and Savior would not be "Well done, my good and faithful servant". I know what it means to sit there, on the floor, in the dark, alone and realize that I was choosing to go to hell despite being given the tools to go to heaven. I know what it is like to venture back towards the light only to scurry away again in fear because the greeting I received in the pew from my fellow sinners was not 'welcome home' but 'what the hell...who are you?'.
Kobe Bryant lived the Faith. He epitomized what we should be - a sinner who says out loud that they are going to do whatever it takes to no longer offend God.
Now, ultimately our reason for that should be to not offend God because we do not want to offend God. Seriously - that should be the reason. I should detest all my sins not just because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell but because I flat out do not want to offend He who never stops loving me.
That being said I am fully aware of my defects of character and sometimes the best I can do is act right because I don't want to get in trouble, rather than I get satisfaction and peace simply from doing the right thing. No matter what, I understand I am a work in progress. My hope resides in Him and in Truth.
Kobe Bryant gives me hope. Because I am a woman who experienced sexual assault I am always leery of a high profile person who seems to skate past any punishment when they are accused of the same. In this case, however, reading about his experience it has allowed me to recognize that redemption and forgiveness is possible for all people, including those I don't particularly like or those I admire. God loves.
I hope that is the message of Kobe Bryant's life. God loves. God is. God forgives.
We all need to hear that message - and we all need to spread that joy.