Father Peter Clarke

From the Diocese of Bridgetown

The Crown That Lasts by Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.

The Crown That Lasts by Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.

This year, more than most years, is loaded with competitions and challenges!
I'm thinking of the Rio Olympics with records to be broken and medals to be won; as well as the Caribbean with its Carnivals, its Regattas and Barbados with its Crop-Over. Here there is intense rivalry in composing and singing songs, designing and wearing costumes. Rival Steel Bands vie for the Crown.

The challenge of exams weighs heavily not only on those who have to sit them but also upon their families watching and praying that their loved ones be successful. Youngsters strive to perform well enough for them to be accepted into Secondary Schools. Adults in Tertiary Education have to prove their superior excellence in a world choked with a super-abundance of talent. At every level exam results define future prospects.

If this challenge does not incline people to have goals, ambitions, what will? Surely the self-esteem engendered by committed effort is much to be preferred to the wishful thinking of those waiting to see how things will turn out as they lazily watch the world go by!

The Bible doesn't spare our feelings when it has the Psalmist declaring "I have no love for half-hearted men!" (Ps. 119.113); and the Angel of the Lord in the Book of Revelation makes it known, "Since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth," (3.16).

St. Paul uses the world of sport as a parable for the basics of the Christian life and, indeed, for every worthwhile human endeavour. "Someone who enters an athletic contest wins only by competing in the sports…a prize can be won only by competing according to the rules," (2 Tim.2.5).

I fear today we would need many a reprint of 'Red Cards' designed to meet the cheating, the foul-play, in every walk of life – from within the family to international politics (and everything in between)!

St. Paul would have us know that success is not meant to come easily:

"Do you not realize that, though all the runners in the stadium take part in the race, only one of them gets the prize? Run like that -- to win. Every athlete concentrates completely on training, and this is to win a wreath that will wither, whereas ours will never wither. So that is how I run, not without a clear goal; and how I box, not wasting blows on air. I punish my body and bring it under control, to avoid any risk that, having acted as herald for others, I myself may be disqualified," (I Cor. 9.24-27).

In many competitions it is each against the rest with only one being the winner. In the spiritual life our godly selves are striving against our sinful inclinations and the temptations of the Evil One. By the grace of God all of us are meant to be winners and to receive from God a 'Crown that Lasts' for eternity.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews,(12.1-3) uses the necessity of having athletic training and role models to stimulate us to take seriously our own Spiritual Life, our very Salvation, "We too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God's throne. Think of the way he persevered against such opposition from sinners and then you will not lose heart and come to grief. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of bloodshed."

In every sphere of human endeavour those who honestly try are already heroes; those who cheat their way towards acclaim deserve to be toppled from their thrones and podiums since their crowns and medals are worth less than garbage.


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