Going for Gold
I saw an ad on TV the other night for an exhibition gymnastics competition and I was reminded of something I learned these last Olympic games. I’ve always had it in my mind that each time the gymnast completed an exercise, vault, balance beam routine, etc., that the judges awarded a score, somewhat subjectively on a scale of one to ten, with ten being perfect. In reality, each athlete begins the exercise with a perfect score of ten, and the judges only deduct from that based on flaws in the performance. So the gymnast is assumed perfect until the judges see what she actually does.
In a neat sort of way, our journey to God is much the same. Through baptism, God gives each of us a perfect . We then launch into life’s experiences; tumbling; balancing; sometimes flying in the wrong direction; and often not quite landing on our feet. Through it all, Christ is there to help pick us up when we fall; spotting us so we don’t land quite so hard; offer us a little coaching; give us encouragement to try again. He even provides the sacrament of reconciliation so we can have another perfect before we make another run at life. He’s also the kind of coach that teaches by example. He not only tells us how to go about our lives, but through His life, passion, death, and resurrection, He shows us how to do it.
It’s not easy. The Olympic gymnasts practice countless hours; endure injury; sacrifice their personal lives; and expose their flaws not just to the judges, but to the millions of people watching on television. At the end of the day, regardless of the amount of effort by all, only one earns the gold medal and gets her picture on the box of Wheaties.
We, too, must practice countless hours in the form of prayer; attending mass; performing works of mercy and love. We have to endure injury, whether that is physical as in the case of a martyr; or emotional as in the pain caused by a less than understanding friend or relative. We have to sacrifice our personal needs. Christ consistently tells us to die to ourselves to follow Him. We are also called to expose our flaws, not to millions of TV watchers, but to a far more critical judge, ourselves. And once we have recognized the flaw, we’re then called to offer that to Christ and His divine mercy; repent of our errant ways; and try again.
The good news is that Christ isn’t expecting a perfect-ten performance from us. He knows we’re going to miss the mark more often than not. The reward, however, isn’t just reserved for one person. If we persevere, endure, and keep trying to live a Christ-like life; if we keep trying to maintain as close to that perfect ten that we started out with; then we all get the spiritual gold medal in form of salvation. While we won’t get our mug on the Wheaties box, we do get to enjoy the eternal joy of Heaven.
Good luck on your next tumbling pass.