Much has been and will be written about the Olympic Games of 2021. The shadow cast over the delayed games by COVID 19 has been superseded by the gift of a greater awareness of mental health matters for athletes and the public at large. The courage of the 24-year-old American gymnast, Simone Biles when she spoke out about the mental health challenges that she was experiencing has been welcomed and applauded by the world. In her darkest hour she did not shy away from her demons but faced them head on while continuing to support her team-mates as they continued their quest for success. She grasped the nettle and returned to win a bronze medal in the artistic beam. The world rejoiced with her and thanked her for bringing a greater awareness of the fragility and importance of good mental health for all people. Our mental good health is a fragile, precious gift from God and needs our full respect and great care. The challenges of everyday living especially at a time of global pandemic can stretch the inner resources of the bravest people. Acknowledgement of inner struggle to oneself, within family or community is essential if deep and sometimes irreversible suffering is to be minimised. Support is available, however, the person in pain often needs encouragement and support to seek and accept help.
Helen Glover, a G.B rowing champion had laid down the oars of her boat for a number of years to give birth to her two children. At the tender age of 35 she set sail again and revealed to the world the beauty of motherhood as the greatest Olympic prize.
Two West Cork men, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy sailed into winning waters with the words, ‘we kept a steady pace throughout the race.’
Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi shared the gold medal in the men’s high jump event when they could not be separated by competition. Displaying graciousness of spirit, Mutaz asked the sports official if the gold medal could be shared and was given a positive answer. He wished his friend and rival to enjoy the spoils revealing to the world that sharing is more important to him than a moment of individual glory.
As I reflect on these events, I hear the distant starter gun for my entrance into eternal life where I will be welcomed with the words of our gracious God,
‘Did you have the courage to speak out for all who suffer?
Have you placed your vocation before all else? Have you kept a faithful and steady pace in your spiritual journey throughout your life? Have you lived a spirit of generosity for the glory of God.’ These are questions whose answers will be made known in God’s good time.
‘I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14)