There is something strangely captivating about the Olympic Games. Many viewers take the time to watch sports that they normally do not follow otherwise. One reason is national pride. It feels exhilarating to watch athletes representing one’s country compete at the highest level. But an equally compelling reason, if not more, is the fact that the Olympics bring together the best of the best from around the world. Watching these athletes perform what often look like superhuman feats stirs our sense of wonder.
Now, it might seem counter-intuitive, but the Olympics can actually help us to understand Catholic Social Teaching (CST) better. For example, this column has emphasised many times the centrality of the Principle of Common Good. Through this CST principle, the Church teaches her faithful and asks all people of good will to strive for the common good so that our society can move towards making it as easy as possible for every person to reach their fulfilment, whether as an individual or as a member of a group.
But what does it mean to be fulfilled? There is no easy answer to this question because God calls every person to different vocations and He gives different people different talents. The only thing we can be sure of is that one’s fulfilment should include all aspects of one’s life, whether they are economic, social, psychological or spiritual.
Going back to the Olympics, when we see athletes in the Olympics try to perform to the best of their abilities, having trained and practised so hard over the years, it is easy to see their performance as their way of answering God’s call to bear the fruits of the seeds of talent God has planted in them.
Perhaps it is not so much about medals or results, both of which depend on so many external circumstances. But their performances demonstrate not only their amazing athleticism but the best of human nature that goes with it, such as sportsmanship, team spirit, courage and perseverance. These values remind us of how extraordinary we can become if we let God’s gifts bear fruit in us. Sporting achievement reminds us of the great dignity of being human, which is something inherent in us by virtue of God’s loving grace; they give us a glimpse, even if only momentarily, into what fulfilment might look like for those called to be athletes. We are, in turn, motivated to discern what it is that God has called us to become.
Moreover, not only do the Olympic Games hint at how human fulfilment might look like, they also speak of the importance of being inclusive in the pursuit of the common good – the Church’s dream is that every person should find fulfilment. Although few of us may make it to the Olympics, there is indeed great value in promoting sports in Singapore because, by nurturing such gifts and helping them bear fruit, society can help those whom God has given sporting talent succeed in their quest for human fulfillment.
First published in Catholic News. Reprinted with permission.