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Father Muench Says...

Medal winning as a Christian Olympian

Aug. 17, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I love following the Olympic Games.  I really can’t get enough.  I watch all the different competitions and even enjoy watching the sports that I know nothing about. 

I continue to be impressed with the dedication and the preparedness of each of the athletes.  I can only imagine the training they have endured to make themselves elite athletes.  The conditioning that they undergo to meet the challenge of their sport is immense.

I am fascinated by the various stories of the decisions that these athletes – women and men – have made to dedicate themselves to become Olympic level athletes.  That decision is where it all begins in their preparation to make the Olympic team.  Once they made that decision, then begins the readiness to accept the hard work of training. 

The goal is the same for all: to make yourself the best. The challenge is to win an Olympic medal. 

I, as a priest, have often used the Olympic story in a homily – let’s say every four years. I am certain Jesus would see the decisions made by these Olympic athletes as a good example for the dedication of his disciples.

The decision to train and work hard to prepare for the Olympics is a powerfully important decision in the whole process of getting ready for the Olympics.  Every disciple who wants to follow Jesus must make the same demanding decisions.Many young people make the decision to train for the Olympics but never make the Games.

Yet, the training will have a profoundly great influence on their lives and futures.  Because of their dedication and training they will become good people, with success in life, even though they do not make the team.  When we decided to follow Jesus – and we are all called to that path – we will always make the team as a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus, the Gospels tell us, was the one who called his friends to make that decision – to follow him. 

Peter and Andrew, James and John knew Jesus, they had heard his message, they knew his hopes and dreams.  However, I think they were surprised when Jesus approached them and asked them to leave all behind and follow him.  They had to be surprised when he asked them to make such a life changing decision – Follow me.  Yet, they discovered that their lives would be truly enriched and blessed by the Lord’s invitation.

Jesus invites you and me to prepare ourselves, to find the presence of God through prayer and the celebration of the Mass so that we will hear the Lord’s invitation.  We are all called by the Lord to use well the opportunities to bring Christ’s message to this world as disciples of the Lord. 

Here we will find our happiness and our purpose as a Christian.

Where does it start?  Jesus prepared his apostles by telling them, “Do not be afraid.”  Fear, spiritually speaking, is a loss of confidence.

As a disciples of the Lord, fear will make us fail to recognize our value as Christians, as followers of Jesus.  Fear causes many to lose the confidence to live a good life, to live well our Christian faith.

I have no doubt that an Olympic athlete must avoid fear, avoid being afraid of failing, of not performing well.  A coach knows that an athlete who loses confidence has already lost. 

Our coach, Jesus, constantly wants to bring into our lives a strong faith and the confidence to be a disciple of the Lord.  Jesus urges us to turn to God often to find the strength to live well, to do well in the love of Our God. In this way we make our world a better place in the Lord.

Our goal as disciples of Jesus is more than a crown of olive branches – more than a medal.  Our preparation to follow Jesus must lead us to bring Christ’s love and peace to this world of ours.  So, as you watch the Olympics, stop for a moment to consider how successful you are as a disciples of the Lord, as a Christian Olympian.

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