The Runner in a Race

31 January 2007. Memorial of St. John Bosco
Hebrews 12, 4-7, 11-15

The first reading from the letter to the Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding blood.” Aristotle tells us of an athlete who falls to the ground collapsing after he passes the finish line. The writer also used the same words as Aristotle, and thus he is saying that we can collapse or faint only after we have won the struggle. Therefore, in our struggle against sin, we should not easily give up until we have shed our blood, to the very last drop. Hanggang dumanak ang ating dugo.

The writer gives us the picture of the runner. He wouldn’t win if he slackens and slows down. His challenge is to run as fast as he can, almost as fast as flying. When the race is almost at the end, the runner’s energy is almost exhausted, and it is easy for him to collapse and to faint. The temptation to slow down and to give up becomes stronger.

The Christian is like a runner in a race. There is a verse in the song, Only This I Want, by Dan Schutte, that goes, “I will run the race, I will fight the good fight,” and quoting St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “So to win the prize of the kingdom of my Lord.”

We make therefore our first point. In our struggle against sin, how do we know if we can still make it? The letter to the Hebrews tells us that only when we have shed our blood, when we can know that we are at the end of the race. As long as we live, with the aid of God, we can arise victorious over our struggles. Hangga’t buhay ka, kaya mo pa.

Second, this points to our duty as Christians. We are called to be encouragers of our fellow runners. In every congregation and in every Christian society, there are those who are weaker and more likely to go astray and to abandon struggle. There are those who will easily give up. There are those whose vigor suddenly slackens. And when this energy diminishes, the Christian encourages the person.

When the Israelites were in the middle of their journey — they have left Egypt and the Promise Land is not yet on the horizon — they began to complain and wished to return to their lives in Egypt. Many of our lives are in the middle of the race: students who already began their college lives, but graduation is still far off; married couples with young children; people in a transition like those into old age; people who are in the middle of their projects. It is therefore our duty to encourage each other to go on struggling, to continue studying, and to persist in their work. Oftentimes, we bail out a few moments before victory.

Let us therefore pray to the Lord that He gives us the strength and vigor needed in the race to His Kingdom.

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