Like Olympic athletes, everyone can glorify God
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said during the July 28 Mass at Westminster Cathedral that the games can help people to understand the link between spirituality and sport.
The archbishop's homily echoed the theme of the July 29 annual Day of Life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales on the importance of using one's body to praise God.
He told the 900 Mass-goers, some wearing national costumes, that the human body is beautiful in the eyes of God, even as it grows old, and always should be used to honor God, the creator of all.
"We will see many fine sports (where) men and women use their bodies, their minds and their spirits in the quest for glory," Archbishop Nichols said. "But the message of the Gospel goes deeper. It reminds us, vividly, that our bodies are for the glory of God. Indeed our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
"This does not detract from that physical achievement of sport, with its beauty, symmetry, harnessing of speed, finesse and power," he said. "Rather it enhances those achievements and gives them their deepest purpose — that of giving glory to their Maker."
The important message that can be drawn from the Olympics was not solely that people had a duty not to misuse or disfigure their bodies or harm them by drugs and alcohol, the archbishop said, but that "the inner beauty, finesse and poise of our bodies goes beyond our years of athleticism and emerges in new form even into old age."
He noted that St Paul often used the analogy of runners in a race "to urge you and I to know clearly our true goal in life, the real, eternal prize for which we are striving."
"And if the prospect of Olympic gold can spur a competitor through years and years of sacrifice and effort, so much more can the constant prompting of God's unswerving love and the pure gold of God's presence for eternity spur us on in our Christian journey," he said.
Archbishop Nichols offered a blessing for the athletes competing in the games and asked God to keep them safe from injury and harm.
Earlier in the Mass, the archbishop read a message for the London Olympics given by Pope Benedict XVI during his July 22 Angelus in which he prayed that the games would also bear fruit in the promotion of peace and reconciliation around the world.
In the plaza outside the cathedral, a sculpture of the five Olympic rings stood prominently beneath a banner reading: "Westminster Cathedral welcomes the sporting world."
An Olympic torch used to carry the Olympic flame around Britain, and finally to the Olympic Stadium, was brought into the cathedral for the Mass.
Six prelates, including Archbishop Roberto Gonzales Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, celebrated the Mass. They were joined by eight priests, including Franciscan Father John Pierce, chaplain to the U.S. Olympic track and field team, and Polish, Italian, German and Austrian team chaplains.
Afterward, James Parker, the Catholic Church's executive coordinator for the 2012 Olympics, said the Mass was meant to help the faithful "make sense of the deeper significance of the games."
"What became particularly evident is that for 17 days, the Olympic Games brings the world together as one," he said in a July 29 email to Catholic News Service.
"Yet for us as Catholics, we have the profound privilege of experiencing this global unity at each and every celebration of the Mass," he said.