20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 18, 2019
“Brothers and sister: Since we are surrounded by so great a Cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us, and persevere and running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
In today’s second reading, St. Paul compares our life on earth as if we are runners in a race. When I was in middle school, the PE teacher used to call a lap around the track a “scenic”. I have to admit that I hated running those “scenics”. I would gladly have sat in the bleachers and watched everyone else through PE, but that was not an option! Of course, I was forced to do it anyway (and usually came in last 😩).
The truth is, whether we realize it or not, every one of us is running in the race we call life. To continue using St. Paul's analogy, there are those who have already lived their lives on earth, entering the bleachers watching us with great interest. They’re watch the finishing times and they are recorded. The way they led their lives determined everything. These are the saints, the Angels, and our friends and relatives who have died; and they are all watching the arena where we are competing right now, watching our performance.
This reality, when it sinks in, can be a bit unnerving, but the fact remains that most of us would probably try harder if we realized how many are watching us from the next world and what is at stake for our eternal future. It is not the one who finishes first so much as how we ran the race. God rewards us for our sincerity, in other words, how closely we follow God’s will and fulfilled our mission that he gave us.
Earthly life is not a time for sitting in the bleachers, but of struggling and striving and yes, suffering. St. Paul tells us how to compete in this race: to keep our eyes always on Jesus, always on our goal, always on heaven, the one true object of all our labors on earth. If we try to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we go through our day, we will make it our aim to please him. We can only run the race well if we keep our goal in mind.
St. Paul also tells us to be aware of our handicaps. We, too, are called to cast aside the sins that still cling to us and persevere and run the race that lies before us. Unrepentant sins are like lead weights tied around our wrists and ankles. They weigh us down and prevent us from competing well. So long as we keep Jesus as our primary goal, even if we are slow runners (like I used to be in PE!), we will always be a winner in the eyes of Jesus, in the race of our lives.