The Olympic journey
Thinking Anew:AS THE London Olympics get under way, millions around the world will watch in admiration as participants compete with each other – and to some extent with themselves – as they aim for the stars in their particular sport.
Few of us, however, will have any idea of what it took to get them to the games, never mind win. In her autobiography Personal Best Denise Lewis, the British Olympian who won gold in the heptathlon at the
Sydney 2000 Olympics, tells of years of preparation and the physical and emotional cost to herself and others. And one account of the days leading up her gold medal underlines the point: “On top of a gruelling training programme she had to cope with a number of serious problems leading up to the Sydney Olympics.
Having overcome a devastating injury to her Achilles tendon she sustained a bad injury to her foot in the long jump and could hardly walk. Behind-the-scenes a flurry of activity was taking place as medical experts decided whether or not to administer a strong painkilling injection that would help her complete the last two events. She knew she would need all her strength and determination for the final event which was the 800 metres. Two punishing laps later she almost collapsed over the finishing line – somehow she had done it.”
She also praises her mother. “I will never feel able to repay mom for all the opportunities she has given me and the life she has allowed me to build for myself. It was she who devoted her life to giving me a chance.
It was she who made all the sacrifices, and she who deserves the praise.”
There are interesting comparisons made between living the Christian life and competing in sport. The Letter to the Hebrews invites us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
St Paul knows from experience that strenuous efforts are needed to live the Christian life and he urges us not to run aimlessly but with focus and discipline. In his first letter to the Corinthians he urges us to run to obtain the prize. If athletes can train and run with such commitment and sacrifice for a reward that fades he argues, how much more seriously should we take the race we run for Christ.
When we come to the end of that race, we won’t be helped by money, status or fame. What will make a difference is the kind of life we have lived and the commitment we have shown.
Those around us play an important role in equipping and supporting us in all life’s endeavours, a point illustrated in tomorrow’s gospel reading. There is an intriguing detail omitted from the story of the feeding of the 5,000.
We are told about the young man and his five barley loaves and two small fishes, but we are not told who prepared and packed them. It is reasonable to assume it was his mother or someone close to him.
And in our own lives – often hidden and sometimes forgotten – are those who have helped us on our faith journey, people like that anonymous preparer of the five barley loaves and two small fishes or the mother of Denise Lewis, who did what seemed right and left it at that.
Archbishop Anthony Bloom reminds us that we can all give to others no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to be. Where God is active there is always the possibility of another miracle: “Go now, and
if you truly have discovered joy, how can you not give joy to others? If truly you have come nearer the truth, how can you keep it to yourself? If truly something has been kindled in your life are you going to allow anyone not to have a spark of that life? Go into the world with a radiance, with a joy, with an intensity that will make everyone look at you and say, ‘He has something he never had before and which I do not possess. Where can I get it?’.”
– GORDON LINNEY