Try telling a parent whose child is in the crucial year in a Singapore school preparing for PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations) that qualifying for the better secondary school is really not that important by quoting today’s gospel, “Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last”. In reality, it does matter. In truth, as parents we need to guide our child and try our best to provide for a good education. It is our parental responsibility to try our best. For God has gifted a child into our care.
The world’s a rat race and for believer or non, we are in the race.
But the passage does not read, “The last will be first, and the first last” or “The winner is a sinner” or “To believe you must lose”. So yes, we need to race. But for which gold medal?
Fittingly this passage has popped up during the Rio Olympics. There was a moment this week when 2 women in the 5000m race tangled, fell and got hurt. One did not race away from the other but instead said, “Come on, get up, we have to finish this race”. Encouraging each other they continued to participate in the race till they finished. That moment won the hearts of many. That moment put the spirit into today’s passage.
They call it the “Olympic spirit”. Then, decades ago, sports was about participation and “spirit”. The world’s ways have changed quite a bit since then. Today, sports and education is about winning, or at least not losing out.
Gold medals are won by results and not spirit. The world’s judgement is by the end-result. It chooses politically-correct words to ‘reward’ a spirited participation. But sponsors are unlikely to jump onto your bandwagon. You won’t have one anyway.
We need to be at the race, not to win it at-all-cost, but to participate at-all-cost. We don’t have to be a rat. Our timing and position does not matter. Heavenly gold is won by how we participate, or more precisely our attitude in our participation. This is a race for eternal life. Who we are and what we do will determine if we get “to enter by the narrow door”. The difference in this race is that everyone gets gold when we get pass “the narrow door”; there is unlimited space on the winner’s rostrum.
We can strive to be in the top secondary schools but our world cannot come to an end if we fail to qualify. Every one of us has a special purpose in life. We must continue participating, we must continue racing and in so doing give ourselves the opportunities to discover the true winners of this race are those who look at other racers as companions rather than competitors.
In our schooling for eternal life, we must acquire wisdom that losing or winning by the requirements of this world has got nothing to do with it. This week another Olympian completed his race in 50.39 seconds and in so doing won his nation her first ever Olympic Gold. His winning moment brought this entire nation into a dimension of joy none have ever before experienced. When he finished his race, an entire nation finished with him. This role was his, and his alone but it allowed an entire nation to bask in the golden glow of his purpose.
Each of us too have our special purpose in life, perhaps fulfilled in less glittering circumstances. We too have in us the spirit of a champion that calls us to reach out to other racers, to help as many finish the race of life and arrive at the narrow door with the ability to squeeze through.
We must participate in life like a true champion with a golden heart, fearless to lose what we have so that others will have, as we race together towards eternal gold.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time