"persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus" Heb 12:2
Like many others around the world, I have been completely enamored with the Olympics. Watching these incredible men and women use their God-given talents to the max is nothing short of inspiring. For some reason I have noticed more than usual attention given to Christian athletics who have displayed their faith either by word or by action. Maybe I'm just paying more attention. Again, extremely inspiring.
There are also numerous videos on youtube from this Olympics in Rio and from past Olympics. One of the videos that caught my attention was "when Switzerland's Gabriela Andersen-Schiess finished 37th in the inaugural
women's Olympic marathon at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games. Her refusal to quit the race despite the exhausting conditions and
suffering from dehydration led to an iconic Olympic moment as sheer
determination saw her over the finish line." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBasZWjd92k
As I watched this runner, more than once, stumbling to make it to the finish line, and as I listened to her interview about her desire just to finish, about her knowledge of where she was going and her need just to make it to the finish line, thoughts of our lives as Christians came flooding through my mind. The idea that this woman had run this same race many times, the idea that she had finished this same amount of miles, made me stop and think how important it is for us to continually and consistently practice our faith. Our life is nothing short of a marathon. Every day that we practice acts of charity, every day that we take time to pray, every day that we strive toward sainthood, we move a little closer to our reward of eternal life with Christ. We should, like these athletes, put our blood, sweat and tears into our workout. We should, like these athletes, leave everything out on the playing field so that at the end of the day we can truly say we gave it our all. We need to practice over and over everyday so that when the going gets tough, when we are completely drained of all our energy, when we experience true dryness and our body fails, our mind and our heart will take over and we will persevere to another day. There is no doubt that we will stumble. There is no doubt that we will be tempted to quit and to jump on the easy ride with everyone else. There is no doubt that we will feel the pain of the struggle. But, what we know as Christians, what we know from the example of Jesus Christ himself and of the Saints who have imitated His life, is that the reward is well worth the struggle, well worth continuing the journey.
In the interview with this amazing athlete, Gabriela mentions that when she arrived inside the stadium, she was cheered on by the crowd. How important it is for us to support one another in our lives of faith! She mentions that there was a Doctor behind her as she struggled through the last lap. How important it is for us to have spiritual help from our priests, our deacons and other spiritual directors! She mentions that she realized that she would never have another Olympic opportunity so she knew she had to cross that finish line. How important it is for us to take every opportunity set in front of us as if it's our last!
Practice. Persevere. Push hard. And like these great athletes, leave it all out there. Everyday. Finish. With our eyes fixed on Jesus.