Spiritual sportsmanship PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 30 April 2016 12:02



We need to develop a sportsman’s attitude toward life, since life is like a game. Yes, life is like a game, because we set out to pursue a goal, we have to follow certain rules, we are given some means, tools and instruments, we train and are primed to win and do our best, but defeats can always come, and yet, we just have to move on.

It would be unsportsmanlike if we allow ourselves to get stuck with our defeats and failures, developing a loser’s mentality.

That would be the epic fail that puts a period and a finis in an ongoing narrative, when a comma, a colon or a semi-colon would have sufficed.

We need a sporting spirit because life’s true failure can come only when we choose not to have hope. That happens when our vision and understanding of things is narrow and limited, confined only to the here and now and ignorant of the transcendent reality of the spiritual and supernatural world.

Besides, life involves a till-death struggle against all sorts of enemies, starting with our own treacherous self, the ever seductive world, and most of all, the spiritual enemies who certainly are more powerful than us.

Finally, life involves pursuing a goal that is much greater, yes, infinitely greater than ourselves. We should not be a bad sport who gives up easily without even trying, or who surrenders in the middle of an exciting and suspenseful game.

We therefore have to develop a strong spiritual sportsmanship in the tenor expressed in some words of St. Paul: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Cor 9,24)

Aside from a strong sense of self-discipline and submitting ourselves in a continuing training program, an indispensable ingredient of this healthy sporting spirit is the sense of acceptance and abandonment that we need to deliberately cultivate.

This does not come automatically, as if it’s part of our genes. We have to develop them.

We have to learn to accept things the way they are or the way they can be. Yes, it’s true that we can shape things and events in our life. We can even shape persons to a certain extent.

There’s a certain validity to the saying that “life is what we make it.” But this cannot be true all the time. We cannot succeed in all our plans all the time, no matter how pure our intentions and heroic our deeds. That’s simply because life has aspects outside our control. There certainly are predicaments that are humanly insoluble.

And yet in all these, we are given a game plan that assures us of victory. It’s the game plan of hope in the ever wise, omnipotent and merciful providence of God. What is needed here is precisely a healthy sense of acceptance and abandonment in the hands of God.

A certain sense of abandonment is needed in life. It surely is not the type where we just do nothing. It’s an active, intelligent abandonment, driven by faith and love for God. It involves a lot of patience and optimism, the capacity to absorb setbacks and all forms of suffering without compromising our hope in God’s providence.

We can know God, and know him a lot. We can cooperate with him, and cooperate with him a lot. But we cannot know him completely, nor cooperate with him 100%. But this should not bother us too much.

We just have to exercise our faith, hope and charity to keep ourselves going.

Someone said that if anyone claims to know God completely, and by corollary, to cooperate with him completely, we can be sure that that God is not the real God, for God, while knowable and relatable, always transcends our ways. So trust, a sense of abandonment, is unavoidable.

Christ, the fullness of divine revelation, himself taught us to live a certain sense of abandonment. And he lived it to perfection when he abandoned himself to the will of his Father by accepting his death on the cross.

Let’s meditate often on his passion and death, since in this we have the standard and norm for our ability to accept things as they are and abandon ourselves in the hands of God.

This exercise will train us to be tough, and to find meaning even in our darkest and most painful moments. This will even keep us cheerful, which is never an expression of hypocrisy but rather of a strong faith and hope in God.