The excitement of the Rio Olympics has started to fade though many of us were inspired by the amazing displays of athleticism – people from all over the world who had trained themselves and given their all to reach the highest of their potential. Last week I reflected with the young people of our parish about what sort of gifts one would need to be an Olympic medal winner. It quickly became clear that it is impossible to be a winning cyclist without ever owning a bicycle and no one could win at archery without a bow and quiver full of arrows. Those athletes who stood on the podium and those who competed alongside them all had a number of gifts that helped them to succeed.
The goal of the Christian life is for us – every last one of us – to become saints. And like winning a gold medal, this goal requires many gifts. Fortunately we have a generous and loving Father who never ceases to pour out his gifts upon us. The Church uses the word “grace” to sum up this great gift of God which gives us a share in His very being. But just like an athlete must train with the instruments of their sport, so to must we use the grace God so freely gives us. I challenged the young people, and I challenge all of us, to find just one way that you can cooperate with God’s grace consistently every day. It could be starting the day with a morning prayer or pausing at lunchtime to read the daily mass readings, praying a family rosary in the evening, or simply a daily act of charity toward an annoying coworker. This is our training to spend eternity as saints.
This weekend Pope Francis adds to the roll of the saints the name of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, a woman whose entire life was spent cooperating with God’s grace as she shared His love and mercy with others. She embodied the advice given to us by Fr. Francis last week, to “seek the lowest place” for there we will find God. And so I extend a further challenge to all of us, that we might each identify a patron saint that we can learn about, imitate, and invoke their intercession. Find a saint to walk with on our journey toward heaven and these sacred mentors will show you how to use the Grace of God to receive that “eternal prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Stay close to Jesus and we will never be far from each other.