I’m not much of a runner, but I still signed up for a handful of 5k races. The few times I ran one of these races, I was with a group of seminarians and some other of our friends. Usually, my pace was in the lower part of that group, which I didn’t mind I was racing against myself, not really against others. However, I always remember the last few paces of the race. I would usually try and pace myself in these races and keep a steady pace throughout. Even when I couldn’t keep a steady pace, which I usually couldn’t, when I got to the last few tenths of a mile, I would pick up the pace a little bit. At that point I see a few things, I see the finish line, some of my friends are cheering me on, and even once one of my friends, who was a fast runner, came back to find me and help me make those last few steps to the finish line. What I found is that when it came to running and trying to meet a time goal, I had to be steady and keep the best pace I could, but at the end, even though my body didn’t want to do it, I pushed myself a little harder to make it to the end.
Our lives of faith can be like a race and a run. St. Paul explains to Timothy, I have completed the race, I have kept the faith. Then he explains that the crown of righteousness awaits him in the life to come. We, too, are on this same journey this same race that Paul ran. Our lives of faith take on a daily aspect, and we need to run steadily. We can learn from St. Paul and how our lives are like a race.
I remember when I ran that race, I wanted to keep a limited number of things on me. If I could, I would leave my keys somewhere, my wallet in a safe place, and many other things, I wanted to keep a lite load so that I wouldn’t be slowed down. I understand too that runners will wear lighter clothing to help them have less weight on them.
In our lives of faith we can be burdened by many things and one of those primary things is our struggle with sin and temptation. Sin weighs us down and makes it more difficult to follow God in our lives. If we don’t remove that from our lives, we will struggle as St. Paul says to compete well and keep the faith. It’s important that in our lives, we take time to go to confession and remove those sins from our lives.
We as well need to detach ourselves from certain possessions that keep us down. I know for me my phone and other technology can keep me from my relationship with the Lord. I know I need to find ways to detach myself from these possessions.
I know for me once the race starts the challenge is to keep a steady pace. I have a pedometer on my wrist, and it tells me what my pace is. I don’t know what my reasonable pace is now, but if I keep it around a 13-minute mile or so, I think I can hold that. The goal with a pace is that we don’t overexert ourselves to early. I could jog fast for maybe three or four minutes and keep up with better runners than myself, but than when I begin to slow down because I used so much energy, my pace never gets to the same place.
The same can be true in our lives of faith. As we grow in faith as we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we aren’t going to go from walking to running at an Olympic pace overnight. We will need to grow in our faith step by step. If we only go to mass once a week, maybe tries and come to mass a few minutes earlier. If we pray every day, maybe pray a few minutes longer.
We should realize that our relationship with the Lord and our journey of faith is a journey, not a single decision or a single event in our lives. God calls us to follow him daily and make that effort every day to follow him.
The last point of the race, no matter its distance is the final moments of the race. I can remember getting a bit of extra motivation to push myself a little harder. If I pick up my pace just a little bit more I can finish this race! However, your body many times isn’t ready to pick up that pace again. I usually push for 40 minutes for a 5K, and after jogging for 30 minutes or more it’s hard to pick up the pace right there at the end. However, many times, there are people there to cheer you on. I even remember one time a friend of mine who ran much faster than me came back after he was done and jogged with me to encourage me and help me pick up the pace.
In our lives of faith we will all eventually get to the point that St. Paul is in when he writes that letter. When we approach the end of our lives, we should challenge ourselves to make our faith life that much more important as we prepare to see the Lord face to face. The beauty is the Church helps us even to the moments right before our death.
So I encourage all of us no matter where we on the race to keep the faith and keep running at a good pace. Finally, I’m reminded of an Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare. We learn from that slow and steady wins the race. I think, too, in our lives of faith, slow but steady growth in our faith will bring us to our salvation. As we continue our journey with the Lord, may we trust in him and continue to keep the face and one day finish the race and enter our eternal rest with the Lord!