I don’t know about you but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics these past couple of weeks. I am not a night-owl and so staying up until 11 p.m. (or even past that) has been a stretch for me. But watching these tremendous athletes do their thing in all the various dimensions of competition has been a real treat. I wish they didn’t have to come to an end already! Unlike some who might go through all the various cable channels to find the wide variety of games being played, I pretty much stuck with the good ol’ NBC 5 with Bob Kostas and the gang. It seems for the past few weeks, some names more than others flooded our consciousness due to their extreme abilities and outrageous success in the Olympics, bringing home medals: Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Michael Phelps, Evan Jager, Conor Dwyer, Aly Raisman to name just a few. Perhaps the one athlete who captured my heart most of all was Abbey D’Agostino, the runner who collided with another runner and yet helped each other finish the race, and she did it with a torn ACL!
Watching these young athletes perform on the biggest stage of their lives is mind-boggling to me. I can’t even begin to imagine the years of preparation, practice, training, and discipline they must follow in order to achieve their dream of participating in the Olympics! And many of them are so young!
The words of Luke today force me to ponder even further the challenge Jesus presents to those were his followers, “Strive to enter the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough!” What does that mean for us? I suppose, like Olympic athletes, it requires some discipline and some practice. But unlike those athletes who will be judged on their performance and must reach ‘perfection’ in order to take home the gold, I don’t think that’s exactly the job description laid out before us. Following, entering narrow gates, building the kingdom, being agents of change: it’s not about perfection and bringing home the gold. It’s about doing our best and keeping our heads and hearts pointed in the right direction on how we can best live out our Baptismal call in this world.
As I watched the Olympic games, I became more mindful of the parents and especially the coaches who helped these young athletes develop their skills. Not one of them could have made it to the Olympics on their own. No one can walk through the narrow gate on our own. We need people to guide us, encourage us, challenge us, and show us the way in this thing called discipleship. Last week, the staff of Old St. Pat’s went way for an overnight retreat to the Jesuit retreat house in Barrington. The priest I invited to lead us in the retreat was Fr. John Canary. John was on the seminary faculty when I was a student and, as I told the OSP staff, he was a real “father” figure to so many of us who are priests today. His style of preaching, his depth of spirit, and his insightful way of communicating the mysteries of God have been, and continue to be, a source of encouragement and strength for me. We all need those figures who can “coach” us along and keep encouraging us to find our way through the gates of life that can often seem narrow and difficult.
Often, we can feel like we’re alone on the way through the narrow, challenging gates. I had a great conversation with my own spiritual director this past week and of the many “take-aways” from our time together, he kept encouraging me (and coaching me) to remember, You’re not alone in this! In our work, ministry, home life, relationships, whatever it is, we can often feel like we are the only ones trying to enter the narrow gate. Not true. We walk with each other and we are reminded of the One who walks with us always, the Risen Lord.
Thank you for being here today and for praying that all of us will trust in the God who encourages us to keep striving for holiness!
Have a great week ahead and let’s keep enjoying these summer days.
Fr. Tom Hurley, Pastor
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