Saturday, 04 December 2021

Have faith and you will reap rewards

THE 2020 Olympics have come (at last) and gone — and it was great.

Wonderful to see so many nations competing in a friendly way, terrific to see Team GB do so well in the medal table, staggering to see the strength, skill, speed and stamina of all the athletes.

So what comes next? The “legacy” of course — likely more interest in some of the minority sports where we did well for example. But for us all? And especially for the winners — what comes after the gold medal? What comes next, when you have achieved your dream, won the ultimate prize, the greatest possible accolade?

A young man once approached St Philip Neri, a saint even in his own lifetime famous for the lightness and precision of his spiritual touch — almost a saintly stand-up. The student wanted to share good news.

After two years of sweat and toil he had passed with five A* A-levels and won a place at the most prestigious university (Cambridge — obviously) to study law — he wanted to become a lawyer.

St Phillip pressed him for more information. “And then?” he asked. “And then,” the young man replied, “I will be a successful lawyer.” “And then?” the saint asked again. “Then I’ll join a law firm and build up my practice, and become a partner.”

“And then?” “And then people will speak well of me and I’ll have a good reputation and I’ll be briefed on important cases and people will want my opinion and I’ll make shedloads of money..” “And then?” came the question once again. “And then I shall lead an easy life and be happy.” St Philip asked a final time: “And then?” As he considered the end of his life, it dawned upon the young man that in all of his life’s plans and dreams, he had made no reference to the will of God at all.

All our victories — the gold, silver and bronze, the career, the marriage, the children, the recognition, all of it; and all our second-bests or failures — the promotion missed, the dead-ends, the divorce, the finding ourselves misunderstood and un-appreciated. All of it has to be seen in a wider context.

Is life, the whole of life, yours and mine, a race towards a tragedy or a triumph? Here’s a quotation from a somewhat less humorous saint (Paul) in his last surviving letter, written in the full awareness of his imminent execution:

“... the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that
Day ....” 2 Timothy 4

Integrity, resisting wrong both in others and especially yourself, faithful trusting in God — with those we will cross the finishing line in triumph and find our reward.

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