Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Spirituality

The Pauline news from Olympic Village is that Sister Gregioria's nephew, Michele Frangili (already holding bronze and silver Olympic medals) took home the GOLD for Italy in Archery. His Zia can hardly contain her excitement. (He himself appears to be kissing his bow as he takes aim!)

During the Olympics, the vocabulary tends toward words like "practice", "achievement", "victory", "excellence." All of these have a place in our life. But as I reflect on it, it seems that "excellence" is the one Olympic word that has the most depth. 

According to Father Barron, in his "Catholicism" videos, freedom and excellence go hand in hand. Freedom is not formless: it "takes aim" at excellence, and is the companion of excellence. When you excel at something, it flows from you freely, even when (as in Michele's case) it involves effort. 

But that achievement, that victory, that freedom, was not automatic. Michele worked his way up from Bronze, to Silver, to Gold. It was a journey toward freedom, toward excellence. When the "rich young man" asked Jesus what to do to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus pointed him toward excellence ("If you would be perfect...") by means of a journey of freedom ("go, sell what you have...and come follow me").

In today's Gospel, the mustard seed takes root and grows to its full potential: the state of being an "excellent" mustard bush, which is to say, it becomes what it is most fully meant to be. St Paul tells us that he will show us a "still more excellent way"--and then launches into his hymn about charity. Charity that is patient, kind, not envious... that isn't something forced: it is free, and because it is free, it is a sign of excellence: a sign of what the human spirit is really meant to be.

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