We have all followed the Olympics, where we watched athletes win gold, silver or bronze medals. They are the fastest, the strongest …But we have also witnessed in athletes marvelous expressions of kindness, such as the young woman who, after falling during her race, stopped to help the very person who caused her to fall.
We also had the opportunity to come to know the stories about individual athletes. Some, because of all of the obstacles that they have overcome seemed particularly deserving of a medal; others, though, because of their conduct seemed to us unworthy of victory. When watching their performances, the judges can only give consideration to the individual athletic event, for which each athlete has prepared for his or her entire life. The judges are oblivious to the stories of the competitors’ lives. But, of course, the Olympic Games are about sports, not life.
In life, individuals are often considered to be the first or the best because of some accomplishment, without an eye to the rest of the person’s life. A person could be very successful in business, but also a terrible human being. Another could be a not so successful, but a great person and Christian. God sees everything, not just one fleeting moment. God sees all of our efforts, and He knows what truly sets us above others. The Lord sees and values those things that last forever, which matter not just for this world but for eternity. In the end, in the eyes of our Father, it is not important if we are first in the eyes of this world, but in His eyes.
The Gospel today is about this: about how sometimes we strive for first place in the eyes of the world, when the only thing important is to find favor in the eyes of God. Living in this way is difficult because it is natural to be or to want to be appreciated by everyone. While there is nothing wrong with that, we need always to remember that we are pilgrims in the world, walking toward another world and that being judged as successful by others does not address the truth about us that will not perish.
Is this way, our faith is important, because it gives us the right perspective on this world and on life. It is through faith that we understand which things are “really” important, what really matters.
Being first or last in something does not necessarily make us better or worse people. If we are able to live a life free from the worries that the world places on us, maybe we will be really alive. The place of honor in the heavenly kingdom is not necessarily the place of honor in this life.
All this being said, we congratulate all of the Olympians for their efforts and achievements. In doing so, let us remember the words of Saint Paul: Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever… (1 Cor. 9:24-25)