St. Paul's Argument for the Olympics

I like millions of other American find it incredibly difficult to turn on the TV at 7:00pm+ and not go searching for the Olympics. I can't seem to switch over to without reading at least three articles about what amazing feats took place today in London. I find myself constantly asking myself, why am I even watching this? Why am I watching synchronized diving? Why am I watching badminton?

There's something about these games that is more magnetic than sitcoms. I dare say, that these games are even more fascinating than midseason hockey. I think, that most of my friends that get jazzed about March Madness would agree that there is something more exciting about that one month than the entire season and post-season of pro basketball. Now, I'm not here to make arguments for or against, but rather, to lay some foundation for my argument and St. Paul's for the Olympics.

You see, what the Olympics and the college basketball tournament have in common are multitude, but I only care to address a few of them. First, these are amateurs competing. The word 'amateur' itself is quite telling. It's a French word deriving from the Latin meaning, "lover." The amateur doesn't play his sport because it's a job nor for any other motive, ulterior or otherwise, other than out of love for the game. Granted, college athletes do for scholarships or to make it into the NBA, but I would argue simply not all. Some get scholarships because they're good at it, and they're good at it because they simply love the game and given the chance to play in the March Madness tournament, without scholarship, they would out of that same love.

Furthermore, there is no scholarship for the Olympian. For the Olympian there is only the prize and the chance to represent something greater than oneself. For me, these two things are inseparable. The chance to represent your country is ordered toward winning the prize. No one wants to represent - nor be represented for that matter - only to show oneself as a loser (I don't want to get into arguments about how every Olympian is in fact a winner. It's just too much of a digression). The goal is the gold. The goal is to be the best.

Now, for my intended digression. There's currently a commercial being aired on NBC featuring several different olympians. It quickly moves from one point-of-view shot to the next of each athlete in the middle of their sport, e.g. a camera shot of a gymnast's view while swinging on the high bar. As you watch each shot, you can hear the same athlete saying things like, "I haven't ordered dessert in two years."The entire commercial is meant to evoke some sense of how hard these last four years have been for these athletes. They've given up so much in order to be where they are, and in that way, we can easily say that what they do and have done takes a lot of discipline.

Moreover, to work so hard for so long would be heartbreaking if it was all in vain. To go through all of that effort only to be disqualified, would be crushing. And even for a viewer to watch any of these athletes DQ before they even have a chance is sad (with the exception of the Chinese men's synchronized diving, they're just too good).

The work is done for the competition. The competition is done for the sake of winning. The winning is done for the prize and nothing more. And this stands as a beautiful analogy for the spiritual life. It ought to inspire us to do the same in our race for heaven. So, here's St. Paul's argument: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. So, we need to discipline our bodies for the sake of preaching the Gospel. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the Gospel at all times - if necessary, use words." We should act with our goal in mind at all times, not aimlessly. It's a struggle and a fight, it won't be easy. And if we act rightly, if we live a good life we too can receive our wreath, our crown.

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