The past few months at our house have been all about running. Both of my children run cross-country for Marist, so there has been a lot of running: running the daily carpools, running the kids to the bus by 5:30 on Saturday mornings, and running a lot of sweaty clothes through the washing machine. So when I came across this running analogy in this month’s Magnificat, I thought it was well-timed as the season is running down. (Bad pun intended.) I liked it because of the idea that we are truly all in this race together. We are all running toward the same finish line, and we want our entire team to succeed. We have to help one another reach the goal. And we can ask for help from those who are stronger than we are.
“Therefore, 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 in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews suggests to us a familiar image. A throng of runners sets out, as on a marathon, or a 5K run. The finish line is eternal life. Jesus leads the pack.
But the analogy of the race breaks down at a certain point. For Christ is not only our leader in the race, but also our “perfecter,” the very source of our strength to run at all. And our fellow runners are not really contestants, for we are not competing for a single prize. Rather, we are all striving together. The other runners cheer us on; they encourage us. If we stumble, they will help us up. If our energy wanes, they will support us. Those who can run faster will blaze a trail for those of us who lag behind. Others will slow down to match our creeping pace.
This is a glorious picture. And, in the lives of the saints who were devoted to other saints, we see that it is true. The saints counted on the help of their brothers and sisters, and we can too. They received help. And we will, too. Let us ask daily for the intercession of the saints.