Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Learning from the Olympics

The desk columnist of the Catholic Times shares his thoughts on the recently completed Sochi Olympics. The Olympic games, along with the World Cup, are heavily involved with commercial interests and extreme competition, a fact often criticized by some segments of the population. The games, however, the writer notes, do take us away from the inevitable boredom that creeps into every life, distracting us, and often providing real drama.

The athletes for a period of 4 years are continually practicing, intent on achieving their goal, winning the gold medal. All are working with all the energy they can muster for that one moment of glory. This is the reason we greet them with our applause.

In the Sochi Olympics we saw the Korean Ahn Hyun-soo win the gold for Russia in the short-track speed racing events. Many Koreans applauded Ahn for his victory but at the same time felt a sense of loss. There had been a problem with the skating federation in Korea and  the government-affiliated group, which were responsible, the columnist believes, for his defection, though he admits it was a complicated issue. To continue to skate, doing what he loved to do, Ahn decided to go to Russia,  become a citizen, and race for  Russia. The columnist feels that Korea should have been more understanding and allowed him to skate for his country.

We need to do well whenever we are given the chance, the writer says. Many dramas, songs and books have the theme of failing to do our best when we have the opportunity and regretting it after. Is this not true in the divorces that we see so often? he asks. Even though the separated partners often express no regret for having divorced, he feels this is a lie. When those who were so close and considered each other precious, if they had related with each other differently, it wouldn't have happened, he says.

This can also be seen in the parent-child relationship. When children finally grow up and want to make amends for a difficult family relationship, it is often too late and they are faced with the death of the parents. Wasn't this the case with Peter in the Gospels, he wonders,  when Peter betrayed our Lord and was left with an eternal lasting regret.  Let us do our best, he advises, when we have the chance.

This situation is not any different in the Church community. In the West, Christians are leaving the Church in large numbers, youth are leaving, vocations have dropped, religion no longer interests many of our Christians. On Sundays the churches are empty and there is no guarantee that the Korean Church will not go the way of the West.

The Church in Korea, however, has been blessed. Compared to the West, we have vitality and many vocations to the clerical and religious life. Even though life is busy, the Christians are very active in the life of the Church and are supporting it by their time, effort and prayers.

What is needed is more effort in growing into mature and holy Christians. We have no guarantee that it will remain this way, so he recommends that we deal with the parishioners as brothers and sisters, one by one, to prevent the dissatisfaction that we see in other parts of the world.

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