Surrounded by Many Witnesses
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 14, 2016
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”
With the Olympics in full swing right now in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, the second reading from Hebrews 12:1-4 is a perfect example for us. In order to understand our place in the universe, both the physical and spiritual realities of our existence, it is necessary to use analogies to help us grasp the truth of things, and what better image than a sporting event like running?
Several years ago it was revealed that Lance Armstrong, who was admired all over the world for his victories in cycling, had done so by using illicit performance-enhancing drugs. Those victories were hollow in the end, but they do provide us a lesson in life. This year’s Olympics have again been marred by allegations of widespread cheating by some. What is the point of winning all kinds of medals if one wins by cheating? What’s the point in the end? In the same vein, what is the point of winning an Academy Award, for example, if one’s life is displeasing to God? What is the point of having a successful life in the sight of the world if our life is, in the end, displeasing to God? For it is the awards ceremony at the end of time alone that truly matters.
We are, in fact, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us, our friends and relatives, those who had faith and those who didn’t, all who once lived on earth, but especially the saints in heaven are witnesses to our brief lives on earth, for it is here that our entire eternity is being established. Each decision, each moment is an opportunity to practice our faith, grow in holiness, ask forgiveness, persevere in our race. We are on-stage and in full view of everyone in heaven, whether we realize it or not! Christ has made it very clear that at the end of time our entire life, save that which we have been forgiven for, will be visible to everyone (Luke 8:17).
Each moment of life is precious, because every choice is either for the Lord or against him, of winning the race or losing ground. Our faith is tested by trials and challenges, but these same witnesses pray for us and encourage us by their example, especially Our Lord and all the saints in heaven, who will pray for us if we ask them. By keeping our eyes fixed
on Jesus alone we will persevere in running the race which lies before us.