Although I enjoyed watching the Olympics as I was growing up I never had a desire to be an Olympic athlete. I enjoyed sports as a hobby. Getting up in the early hours of the morning to work out and practice never appealed to me. That sounded like a job, not sports. If I had known in my childhood that I was going to grow up to be 6'8" tall maybe I would have looked at things differently. I had no control over my growth spurt of three inches per year in high school. That was not a skill; it was God's gift to me.
It wasn't until my senior year in high school that the thought of playing sports beyond high school became a viable option. I didn't always enjoy practice, but it wasn't completely over the top in regard to expectations. Training for sports looked significantly different forty years ago compared to today. I was able to play two sports at the collegiate level and had my education paid for because of those skills. There are no gold medals in my closet, but I do have some good memories.
As I watched the gymnasts and swimmers on Sunday I could only imagine the hours of training and practice each athlete had invested to reach this brief moment in time. Would the hard work pay off or would one flaw squelch the dreams? Watching the parents of some of the athletes sitting in the stands showed the level of pressure being felt by more than just the individual athlete. "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" was staring each individual right in the eye.
The Olympics mean a little bit more to me this time because I actually know a member of Team USA. DeAnna Price will be in the hammer throw competition. I have known DeAnna's mom my whole life, and I actually played baseball with DeAnna's grandpa. My wife was DeAnna's seventh grade teacher. Thus, we are hoping she has an awesome experience and brings home a gold medal.
You can read more about DeAnna on Team USA's website.
All of this started me thinking about my own discipline, or lack thereof, in the responsibilities of my daily life. Am I putting forth the effort to be successful in my endeavors? Am I satisfied with the status quo? I then took it out of the realm of work and just put into the perspective of my spiritual journey. Do I have the discipline necessary to become a saint?
We recognize that the gift of redemption is just that. It is a gift. It is God's grace welcoming us into the fold. However, that gift of grace requires a response from each of us. Are we determined to be saints? Do we have the tenacity to get up early and spend time in prayer? Are we willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in regard to loving our neighbor? Sanctity is not for the faint of heart.
There are times when we can become apathetic and think that saints only lived in the distant past. We may incorrectly believe that sanctity is just for a few select individuals. On the contrary, all who have been baptized into the death of Christ have been baptized into His resurrection. We are all called to be saints. Are we living like we believe that?
Here are a few reflection questions to ponder in regard to your pursuit of sanctity:
1. Are you faithful in making time for daily personal prayer?
2. Are you participating in the Sunday Eucharist. Please notice that I used the word participating. This isn't just about showing up to check the box "Fulfilled my Sunday obligation by attending." Are you present with full, conscious, and active participation?
3. Do you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently? Do you recognize the need for forgiveness? Repetition of sin can lull our conscience to sleep. Are you examining your conscience thoroughly and truthfully?
4. Are you nurturing a spirit of gratitude and generosity? Do you complain about everything that is wrong with your life and the world or do you celebrate the gift of life with gratitude and generosity?
5. Do you seek opportunities for conversion? Is your faith journey receiving adequate attention or do you simply work spiritual things into your life when it is convenient?
6. Are you cultivating a love for justice and a desire for peace? What are you doing to make your little corner of the world a better place, a holier place?
7. Are you faithfully reading the Sacred Scriptures? This includes study, meditation, and prayer. Do you allow quiet time so God can speak to you through His Word?
8. Do you act on your moral values even when it is difficult?
9. Do you serve others willingly?
10. Are you intentional about growing in holiness, responding to God's call in your life, and becoming a saint? Do you have the steadfast perseverance required to run the race to the finish?
This isn't just about winning a gold medal. It is about our eternal salvation. Are you willing to unite yourself to God with total abandonment?