by Gavin Landers
When hearing the above phrase it usually comes with feelings and emotions; feelings of excitement, adrenaline and expectation. The words, I’m sure, conjure images of being at the start of a race duly waiting for the gun to spark and the deafening sound of a shot, which then prompts the eager racers into motion from a statue-like figure into a sprint.
The words of Christ seem to provoke a similar response in our lives and this was evident at the Flame Congress I attended last Saturday (24th March 2012) at Wembley Arena. The congress was an initiative to combine sports and faith for young Catholics in anticipation for the Olympics which are to be held this summer in London.
The congress attracted over 8,000 excited and adrenaline filled young people who were there to encounter Christ and His Church and they were not disappointed. On one level these young people could have been seen as eager spectators but this simply wasn’t the case. They were ready ‘on the line’ waiting for the prompt to “Go!” and “proclaim the Good News to all of creation” (Mk 16:15). They were primed, focused and set for the race of which Saint Paul talks of: “the racers compete for a wreath that will die … we compete for a wreath that will never die” (1 Cor 9:25 paraphrased).
During the day there were many Christian speakers from the world of sport who are already on ‘the race’ and who wanted to pass this faith on to the young people, as if passing on the ‘baton of faith’. One such sports person who stood out for me was Debbie Flood. Debbie is a champion rower, and she championed the fact that a gold medal in the Olympics is only a foretaste of the success of “entering heaven as a champion of Christ”. As a former sports personality Sr. Catherine Holum, a Franciscan Sister of the Renewal, explained to us that the comparison of the Olympics to life is a good analogy of our life of faith. She enthused that “Jesus is my gold medal!” which brought a thundering applause and lots of cheering.
One hair-raising moment was when we got to spend time with the prize of all prizes: time with Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar: priceless!
The theme that kept coming up was “be the best you can be!” We were told to be the best for Christ, for others and be the best of who we are. Why? Because we are “God’s work of art” (Eph 3:10) we are “made in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:27), we are “Saints of the new millennium” (Pope John Paul II). This fact is not simply because of our own efforts – that is a futile endeavour – but because “God is within us” (Lk 17:21), “God’s grace is sufficient” (2 Cor 12:19) and “If we are what we are meant to be, we will set the whole world on fire”(St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church).
“On your marks, get set, go” … the race of championing Christ is on!
1st Year Seminarian
Diocese of Salford