It is hard to believe that we are deep into the summer season. Not long ago, we were anticipating summer and the Tokyo Olympics. Now, the heat has arrived, as have outdoor activities and sports. Even the awaited Olympic Games are behind us, leaving us with images of extraordinary moments of triumph, emotion and glory.
For many, this summertime has involved taking time to enjoy our favorite Olympic competitions. We’ve cheered for a new generation of runners, gymnasts and swimmers who flawlessly have set new world records. And, in the fervor of the moment, we have been captivated by high levels of skills displayed with finesse, precision and endurance. Whether late into the night or at odd hours of the day, we seek out glimpses of the sublime and emotional rituals presenting the gold, silver and bronze medals.
However, not always apparent were the countless hours of hard work, personal investment and innumerable sacrifices that made these extraordinary feats even possible. What we saw before us were not the exhausted and broken bodies of athletes after long periods of practice, but transfigured individuals going beyond any perceived limitations. For a moment, we could forget everything and simply admire the glory being reflected.
Regardless of where we may fall in appreciation or disdain for the Olympics, we can readily acknowledge the significance of being able to see both the glory and sacrifice that is part of life, in general. Truth be told, it always takes extra care, time and effort to see beyond what is in front of us. As the story of Jesus’ transfiguration illustrates, we want to be comfortable and remain in the moment and avoid the pains that come with growth and change. More to the point, like Peter, we are tempted to say: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9: 2-10).
From the human side of things, we understand why people would want to remain in their comforts and sense of personal glory. There is something quite psychologically healthy and spiritually right about seeking what is good for us, especially when we pursue a balanced, virtuous life. At the same time, however, we know that there is more to life than just individual accomplishments and personal glories — no matter how laudable and significant our individual actions and interests may be.
Indeed, at the heart of our faith we find a deeper calling to transcend our immediate comforts and place our gaze beyond our individualistic concerns and preoccupation. In the most ordinary of ways, we are encouraged by our faith to go beyond ourselves in life-giving ways for others. “Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice and all these things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:33-34).
Consequently, whether we find ourselves in an Olympic-like stage or mountaintop tent, our Christian vocation seems to ultimately bring us to the most ordinary, lowly and often challenging places, where God’s saving justice and mercy are found. Therefore, we pray that our daily efforts, sacrifices and endurance will be moments of hope for others and give witness to the glory of Christ and His kingdom already present and reflected in each one of us.
F. Javier Orozco
First published August 12, 2021 in the St. Louis Review