A couple of weeks ago, Msgr. Smith’s homily compared Christian Discipleship to athletes training for the Olympics. He also mentioned St. Paul comparing faith to sports as well. Later on that night, I was praying, using one of my daily devotional books. It gave me a scripture passage to meditate on – and whatdya know! It was the one Msgr. Smith referenced that same morning.
“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air...”(1 Cor. 9:24-26).
This comparison of faith and athletics was not lost on me during the two week Olympics Craze here in Vancouver. The energy, fellowship, charity and kindness of all the Canadians cheering for our athletes was fantastic, and I’m sure for many, they had never felt this united with everyone in their country. There were no doubts. No hesitations. Just a loud and proud population yelling “Go Canada Go!” People believed “in the power that comes from a world brought together as one...,” as the Olympic song goes.
Throughout the two weeks, I witnessed high fives between complete strangers, random bouts of the Canadian Anthem, and impromptu hockey games in the streets. But the very first time I got a sense of how big these games were going to be was when I was on the way to UBC within 24 hours of the Opening Ceremonies. My bus (and all other vehicles) pulled over to let the torch runner come through, with the torch blazing in all its glory. People were ecstatic! Understandable, as the torch is a symbol that stands for fairness, unity, good sportsmanship, and the pursuit of perfection. But as I saw that torch go by, I couldn’t help but think, “I wish people had the same level of excitement for God that they have for that torch.”
Because we too, as The Church, have a torch. And this torch brings so much more unity and charity and fellowship than the Olympic one. A torch that shines so much brighter, a torch that will never dim (and will never have ‘technical difficulties’). A torch that calls us to place it and its power on a lampstand, so it can give light to all in the house (Matthew 5:15). And that torch is right there in the tabernacle.
Are we going for gold? We should be more excited about Christ than we were about the Games. We should be striving to gain true perfection with greater passion, not simply “beating the air.” Every mass is our CTV or Sportsnet. Every reading, our inspirational Olympic commercials. The 40 Days of Lent before Easter is our anticipation of the lighting of the cauldron. And this cauldron will stay lit, not for two weeks, but forever!
I took the fellowship of The Games as a foreshadowing of what the Church should do for all of us – bring us together as one because of Jesus Christ. The Olympic Torch, a mere symbol of all that is good about Athletics, brings about such joy and unity. The Eucharist, the actual body and blood of Christ, should bring about those things even more so. Everyone should be a witness to the fact that we’re not running or cheering for The Light of the Games, but for The Light of the World.