Several hundred young people have gathered in St Bonaventure’s Catholic high school in one of the most deprived parts of East London, a mile away from the Olympic Park, to begin a 12-day event called The Joshua Camp being run and hosted by the Sion Community for Evangelization.
Bishop Thomas McMahon, bishop of Brentwood Diocese to the East of London and Essex, celebrated Mass on the first day of the camp, welcoming participants from every continent of the world with 21 countries represented and more than 15 languages present.
In his homily, Bishop McMahon highlighted 2 particular Olympic themes: carrying the torch and running the race. He said that “in Ancient Greece, the concept of light was revered and was seen in contrast to darkness” with light and the torch becoming “a symbol of faith and hope in a darkened world”. Speaking of welcoming the Olympic torch past his cathedral in Brentwood some weeks previously, he said he liked “to think that people also gathered to see and support those who were carrying the light”.
The bishop challenged those present asking: “do we try each day to follow Christ our light? Are we light bearers to our world, to those around us, by our way of life, by the way that we witness to Christian values?”
He then echoed the words spoken to Britain’s young Catholics by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, reminding them of Blessed John Henry Newman’s words ‘heart speaks unto heart’: “I want you to look into your own heart and ask yourself ‘what kind of person do I want to be?’”
Speaking on ‘running the race’, Bishop McMahon recalled how the Ancient Games were nothing to do with medals made up of precious metals, or national flags and anthems but rather about “individual strength, skill, training, discipline and commitment”. “It is sad” he went on to say “when the emphasis today is solely on achievement. The earliest emphasis of the Games was on taking part rather than on achievement and success.”
Referring to New Testament writing, he impelled those present to see “life as a race, a marathon, with only one thing necessary for us Christians and that is not the winning so much as the keeping our eye on Jesus, remembering that our faith is not first and foremost built on teachings or doctrines or rules and regulations but around a person, the person of Jesus.
“The very important question we need to ask ourselves is this: ‘Is the person of Jesus real in my life, or just notional?’ In your relationship with the Lord are you a Sunday acquaintance, or a weekday friend?
“Run the race of life always with your eyes fixed on Jesus,” he ended, “knowing that this race isn’t for winners but rather for finishers.”
The young people in attendance are receiving training and catechesis about how to be a true Christian presence alongside the Olympic Games. They will then have the opportunity to go into the local neighbourhoods and to perform acts of service. These will include inviting local young people to engage in sport, to be a part of music and drama workshops and to be artistic and creative.
Daily liturgies, from the Office of Readings to the celebration of the Mass, are presented in a variety of languages. A number of Olympians have already agreed to visit the camp during the coming week.
For more info about The Joshua Camp visit thejoshuacamp.com
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Full text of Bishop Thomas McMahon’s homily can be downloaded at the top right of this page