Keep running to Jesus during Advent – BC Catholic

I was inspired by a recent homily by Father Felix Min at St. Paul’s in Richmond. He spoke eloquently of the need to be patient and vigilant during Advent as we await the celebration of the coming of Jesus. Whether we are waiting for food to arrive in a restaurant or eagerly awaiting a big sports competition, we have to be patient. Both experiences can teach us something about continuing the much more important experience of finally meeting Jesus.

We desperately want this meeting, but at the same time we must see each day as a chance to be better prepared.

Many world-class athletes often dream of winning major events and becoming their sport’s Hall of Fame at the end of their career.

They circle the dates of these competitions on their calendar. These events have the most prestige, the largest crowds and the most cash prizes. The athlete will have a coach, physical trainer, sports psychologist, and other team members to keep them focused on the day-to-day work required to be incredibly well prepared for these special events. The athlete will need to be disciplined by training hard each day to gradually improve their skills while creating more and more excitement and urgency for the big day.

While the scale of the tournament is huge, any success they get will come from the daily improvements they made every day. On this pre-tournament journey there will be some obstacles to overcome, so it is essential that the athlete acquires the skills to persist in battle and overcome these challenges. There are usually smaller competitions in which they will train to overcome these same challenges. Sufficient practice should lead to trust in the process under pressure.

Now try to see our journey to the big day where Jesus arrives in the same way. It is the greatest of days for us as Catholics. Our whole spiritual life is intended to prepare us for our encounter with the Lord. We have priests, spiritual directors, mentors, teachers, the Gospel, our Guardian Angel, our family and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints on our team who help us prepare and guide us on a daily basis. They are a most impressive team.

Every day, through Mass, prayer, chapel visits, acts of kindness and regular confession, we improve our spiritual game. On a daily visit, we too will have adversities (the devil will try to stop you) and setbacks, but overcoming them by faith will bring us closer to God on this great day. You should see Jesus in others every day and see this as a chance to take care of their needs, which are his.

Yes, be excited to meet Jesus, but be patient in the process. Some Hall of Fame athletes like National Hockey League superstars Raymond Bourque and Alex Ovechkin, golfer Sergio Garcia and John Elway of the National Football League were in the twilight of their careers before securing a major victory. They continued to learn, to forgive each other for their past mistakes, and to believe. Likewise, we must keep on growing, confessing for forgiveness and believing even more in the beauty that awaits us at the coming of Christ.

So, during this Advent season, be patient and continue to draw closer and closer to the baby Jesus in the stable, just as the shepherds did.

As this is my last column before Christmas, I wanted to leave you with some uplifting end-of-year quotes from Catholic athletes and coaches reflecting the importance of their faith in their lives. There are many fine examples of Catholic athletes in the world of sport, and I pray that those of you involved in sport at all levels will be one of those witnesses. Have a blessed Christmas!

• Super Bowl-winning coach John Harbaugh (featured in Anne Stricherz’s blog post, “Do You Know These Amazing Catholic Athletes?”): “Mass is a way of honoring and praising God. You humble yourself before God and let Him know that these things that we are doing are for you.

• Alberto Salazar, New York and Boston Marathon champion (Stricherz): “Running for the Lord is my main reason. There is a belief that if you can’t do something perfectly, it’s not worth doing it. It’s wrong. On the way back, take 20 minutes to say the Rosary. It may not be perfect, but God will reward you for the effort.

• American gold medalist gymnast Dominique Dawes (Belief Net): “’I can do anything through God who strengthens me’; it is my favorite verse in the scriptures and whenever there were times of doubt I would push them away with these words.

• NFL star quarterback Philip Rivers (Catholic National Register): “Faith comes first, then family and then football.”

• Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky (NC register): “I think the beauty of Catholicism is its consistency across a person’s successes and struggles. In training, in competition, at school, in family and in everyday life.

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