Blog/CYM Blog

Olympics, World Youth Day, and Luke 12

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited for the Olympics! Although I love to watch the Luge competitions during the Winter Olympics, nothing beats beach volleyball, soccer, archery, swimming, and gymnastics.


Watching all the countries enter with flags raised high displaying the world’s greatest athletes takes me back to one week ago when Pope Francis welcomed 2.5 million pilgrims from “different parts of the world, from different continents, countries, languages, cultures and peoples” for a Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day. With flags raised to represent their countries and candles lit to illuminate the darkness, strangers became brothers and sisters and countries at war drew together in solidarity and peace.

The words Pope Francis shared at the Prayer Vigil could’ve be repeated at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro Friday night:

Some of us are sons and daughters of nations that may be at odds and engaged in various conflicts or even open war. Others of us come from countries that may be at “peace”, free of war and conflict, where most of the terrible things occurring in our world are simply a story on the evening news. But think about it. For us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, and they are close at hand.

Every two years, I experience the same sensation when the Olympics happen, and that feeling was amplified this year because they followed such a great World Youth Day. This feeling of unity helps me perceive the world as one rather than separate countries, cultures, religions, or races. We come together, whether in Rio or our watching television as couch potatoes from home, for a common interest and that interest is supporting or achieving greatness in athletics.

The Olympics always inspire me as I watch athletes who have dedicated their lives to compete to win Gold. Each athlete practiced, prepared, and trained physically and mentally for years to be the best in their sport. As much as I might want Team USA to win, I just want the best athlete to take the Gold. I want the best recognized for their efforts and training.

World Youth Day enlivens me in a similar way to strive for greatness in living my faith, so the nations know Christ lived, died, and rose from the dead for our salvation. Pope Francis just gave a series of audiences and sermons that would rival any pep talk Coach Taylor made on Friday Night Lights before a State Championship. Re-reading his World Youth Day homilies and audiences inspires me to learn more, pray more, and be bold in sharing my love for the Lord and His Bride, the Church. All of this is part of my preparation and training, to enter the gates of heaven.

This week the Gospel of Luke (12:32-48) challenges us to be vigilant, prepared, and ready for our master’s return. We are told to, “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

So I have to ask, what does this Gospel look like in our world today? How are we lighting our lamps awaiting our savior’s return? As I watched the WYD Prayer Vigil from home, I cried looking at the field of lit candles filled with pilgrims in silent prayer. I saw a Church awaiting their master, looking past their physical and spiritual limitations, and taking to heart the words of our Holy Father:

You might say to me: Father, but I have my limits, I am a sinner, what can I do? When the Lord calls us, he doesn’t worry about what we are, what we have been, or what we have done or not done. Quite the opposite. When he calls us, he is thinking about everything we have to give, all the love we are capable of spreading. His bets are on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus is pointing you to the future.

Like the athletes competing this week in the Olympics and the pilgrims who traveled throughout Poland for World Youth Day, we must stop putting up boundaries that prevent us from being the men and women God is calling us to be. As Catholic Christians, we are not striving to achieve a podium where we are glorified with a medal. No! We are aiming for heaven and the mark we leave on history will be the mark of sainthood.

So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well. – Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2016 Prayer Vigil

Photo Credit: Randy Raus

About the Author

Tricia Tembreull

Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a Texas-size heart for hospitality. She said yes over twenty years ago to God’s call to youth ministry and never could’ve imagined the adventures and people He had planned for her to encounter along the way. She serves as a Parish Coach for Life Teen and joyfully travels around the globe training, empowering, and praying with youth ministers. When not on a plane, you can find Tricia in a church, spending time with family and friends, in the kitchen cooking up something delightful, or on the beach for an evening walk.

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.