Captivated, enthralled, mesmerized– these words capture the admiration that millions have for those engaged in the Olympic Games! Be it running or rowing or swimming or jumping or cycling, admiration and praise rises to these men and women that go beyond what one would think human nature is capable of attaining! Throughout the whole world eyes are fixed on what feat, what record, what victory will happen next!
The Olympic games date back even before the coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Saint Paul, who was a Roman citizen, wrote many letters and more than once does he use an image referring to the Olympic games: “I have run the good race… and I have fought the good fight… the merited crown awaits me…”
The discipline that goes into the athletes that arrive qualify for the olympic games almost staggers the imagination. Years before arriving at the Olympic games the future “Olympians” are already training for there competition. Strict dietary discipline, long and strenuous hours, days, weeks and months of hard work, renunciation of many legitimate pleasures all capture the spirit of the athlete, the future Olympic game champion.
Of course the ultimate goal of the Olympic athlete is to win, but to win the best which of course is the Gold Medal. This is the ideal goal of every athlete that enters into the Olympic games. Will he/she win the “Gold”? Time and the game will tell, but that is his/her ultimate goal. That is the meaning behind all of the enormous sacrifices made even years before the Olympic games arrive.
Let us change gears now to apply the Olympic Games to our own lives, our spiritual lives. It is not beyond the reach of the imagination to give a parallel sense analogy to all of us with respect to our spiritual lives. We are all called to be spiritual athletes, spiritual olympians. We are all called to run the good race, fight the good fight and to win the merited crown that awaits the faithful followers of Christ.
However, there is indeed an enormous difference between being an Olympian in the stage of the Olympian games and being an olympic athlete for Christ. The Christian Olympian is not running for fame, honor, accolades, praise, or media acclamations! He is not running or competing for a gold, silver or bronze medal. He is not competing to win a photo on the front page of a famous newspaper. He is not competing for any natural acclaim to fame!
Vanity of vanity all is vanity, the word of God teaches us if it is not directed to the honor and glory of God and for the promotion of our eternal salvation. The motivation and purpose of the athlete of Christ, the Olympic champion of Christ, is to win the GOLD MEDAL of the salvation of his immortal soul first and foremost!
Still more, the true athlete of Christ is not bent simply on his own eternal salvation, but also on how he can win over others souls, and as many souls as possible to the love of Jesus Christ, “The Lord of Lord’s and the King of King’s”.
What does this entail in concrete? Very simple: spiritual determination, spiritual discipline, perseverance and eyes always fixed on the ultimate goal: Heaven, where Jesus the Lord and King awaits the His faithful athletes.
Three areas of discipline are indispensable for the athlete of Christ to enter the spiritual olympic games and win the spiritual gold medal that will not tarnish, nor rust nor corrode over the centuries. These areas of discipline must be appreciated, treasured and worked upon frequently— and this means on a daily basis!
First, prayer discipline. Without prayer, the athlete of Christ is like a swimmer without oxygen, a runner without the baton, a fencer without his sword! The athlete of Christ must not only pray, but constantly strive to grow deeper in his prayer life. Prayer is dialogue with God, union with God, Friendship with God, the strength that comes from God. No spiritual athlete– we can call them the saints– ever won any medal without having struggled through prayer, prayed hard, persevered in prayer!
Second, sacramental discipline. As followers of the King of King and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Lord, we must have a great faith, love and appreciation of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, and most especially the Sacraments. Grace flows upon the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, in many and various ways. Nonetheless, the most efficacious outpouring of grace flows abundantly from the Sacraments. These are the splendid and powerful gifts bestowed upon the Mystical Body of Christ by the Lord Jesus Himself. How thankful we should be towards the Lord for His infinite goodness. He promised to never leave us as orphans. Therefore, He is present in His Church and the grace flowing like and abundant ocean in the Sacraments. Of prime importance, for the athlete of Christ, is to receive the Sacraments of Confession and the most Holy Eucharist frequently and with an excellent disposition. In a word, it should be the desire of the spiritual–olympian to strive to receive the sacraments better upon every reception! How good the Lord Jesus is that He showers down upon us a deluge of graces through these sacraments. Confession heals us of our wounds inflicted by personal sin; Holy Communion nourishes our hungry and thirsty soul with the Body and Blood of Jesus, our Lord and King and Master!
Pray the Rosary
Third, Marian devotion. Athletes of Christ are also athletes of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Grace is the spiritual energy that gives life and victory to the
athlete of Christ. One of the many beautiful titles given to the Blessed Virgin Mary are the words addressed to her by the Archangel Gabriel in the Annunciation: full of grace. Indeed from Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the womb of Saint Anne, culminating in her Assumption into heaven in body and soul, our beloved Mother Mary, “The full of grace” constantly grew in grace. Indeed those who love Mary, call upon Mary, consecrate their lives to Mary, strive to imitate Mary, and strive to bring others to Mary receive choice and signal graces from Mary. Among these signal blessings is the growth in GRACE. What is grace? Simply this: the spiritual life blood of the soul, union and friendship with Christ. The grace of all graces for the life of the athlete of Christ is to die in the state of grace. Once accomplished, the race is over and won and the gold medal is given to the victor by the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Jesus the Lord.
True followers of Jesus and Mary, true athletes of the Lord, spiritual olympians, may we discipline our minds, bodies, hearts and souls by a more intense prayer life, more assiduous sacramental life, and a growing fillial devotion to Mary our Mother so that we will run the good race, fight the good fight and win the merited crown of heaven that awaits God’s spiritual champions, athletes and olympians!