by Fr Duncan McVicar on 06/08/2012 -
Last Friday most people in this country and indeed around the world stopped to watch the official opening of the Olympic Games. Many of us will be taken by the skill and the performance shown by each of the athletes taking part. Think of the gymnasts, the divers, the ice skaters, for example. How many of us have wondered how they manage such a degree of perfection in what they do? How can they for years and years apply themselves to strenuous training, which many a time involves demanding sacrifices, in the hope of reaching their goal? Sports have always been a recurrent image when we speak about the spiritual life. One of St Paul’s favourite images is to speak about ascesis in the spiritual life: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” St Paul equates the Christian life with a race; but unlike the Olympic Games, the Christian Life is a ‘race’ to win the ‘imperishable crown’ (i.e. eternal life). There is no doubt that there is a lot that we can learn from the discipline and perseverance of an athlete; especially because in many ways, the sacrifices and demands of following Christ are in themselves not less challenging; but also because ‘our prize’ is an imperishable one. None of the athletes could reach their level of competitiveness without years of everyday training. It is worth asking ourselves whether we too are persevering and making an effort in our Christian life. Do I actively cooperate with God’s grace? Do I pray constantly? Or at times not, because I can’t be bothered or have other priorities? It is important to ask ourselves if we have our eyes fixed on the ‘imperishable crown’ our Lord has promised to all those who persevere until the end. The Olympic Games are a reminder to us of what man is capable of doing when he puts all he’s got into something. We too, like the Olympic athletes, are called to put in ‘all we’ve got’, to win not a gold medal but an ‘imperishable crown’. We too are called to reach perfection but not merely due to our strength but rather by actively cooperating with God’s grace in our daily lives. As we watch the Olympic Games, may they be a reminder that we too, like the athletes, are called to persevere, to ‘train’ and so to grow closer each day to Christ. May they also be a reminder of St Paul’s words, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it”.
With Thanks to Salford Diocesan Website
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