From the Bishops Religion as sport

My dear friends,

The games of the 29th Olympiad just ended, and truly we witnessed some magnificent deeds.

We watched swimmers and sprinters push their bodies to the limit to attain that tiniest margin of victory.

We watched gymnasts and divers fly through the air while contorting their bodies to retain perfect form.

We watched marathoners endure hours of physical pain just to cross the finish line.

We watched in amazement as these young people – and some who were not so young anymore – appeared to do the impossible in terms of human speed, skill and endurance.

What we did not see, as we sat watching their feats in disbelief, was the endless hours of training and hard work that made possible their nearly miraculous performances.

Most of these athletes started at a very young age, practicing and training for their shot at the Olympics. They and their parents spent countless hours in gyms and pools and tracks and weight rooms, driving back and forth to games and practices. They worked out while others played, and studied while others slept.

For some people, sport is a religion. Perhaps we would do well to think of our religious practice as a sport.

Do we want to come closer to God?

How many hours do we spend before the Blessed Sacrament?

How often do we become one with the Lord in the holy sacrifice of the Mass?

How often do we train ourselves to walk along righteous paths by admitting our sins in confession?

Is Sunday Mass an appendage in our lives, something to do if nothing else interferes, or do we build our lives around this weekly celebration of faith?

Certainly, Michael Phelps could not hope to win as many gold medals were he not tenaciously single-minded about his training regimen. Neither could he claim the gold if he violated the rules, even one as seemingly insignificant as flinching before the start of a race.

Yet somehow we boast about being good Catholics even if we do not follow all the rules of our faith.

We boast about being good Catholics even if we are less than single-minded about our practice of the faith.

More in From the Bishops

How many of us read the Bible as frequently as we read the sports section?

How many of us memorize obscure statistics regarding our favorite team or athlete but cannot recall the mysteries of the Rosary or repeat the Ten Commandments or recite a single Bible verse?

How many of us know the rules and intricate strategy of a sport better than we know the meaning of the symbols used at Mass?

St. Paul himself used an Olympian analogy in his second letter to Timothy: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tm 4:7)

Let the Olympics teach us that God’s call to holiness is not unattainable. But like top athletes, we have to work tenaciously to reach our goal, investing body and soul and every waking moment into the practice of our faith.

We supply the desire and the willpower. The rest is by the grace of God.

Printed with permission from Florida Catholic.

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