Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
In the second reading for this Sunday, taken from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy we hear a very moving passage. The Apostle to the Gentiles who is awaiting his impending execution, addresses his disciple and friend: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
Other translations render it as: “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.”
It is a very moving expression indeed. St. Paul knows that he will soon be executed. His hour is coming. His life is coming to an end. Looking back, he is satisfied. He has fought, competed, run, persevered. He has remained faithful to the very end. When our time comes to appear before the Lord, may we all be able to make our own these words. We know that one day we will have to appear, the issue is not if we will appear but when. Just like the Apostle we are in a constant combat, on a journey towards a goal.
It is apparent that our life is a race, a journey that we find ourselves in from the moment that our existence begins in our mother’s womb.
There is no doubt that our lives are meaningful. We were created by God out of love. Each one of us is precious in the eyes of God simply because we are, regardless of any other consideration.
In the horizon of our existence, there is a finish line, an objective: communion with Christ for all eternity. If we can see and reach this goal it is pure and simply because of the love of God who created us, is offered to us and draws us with bonds of love. Of course, we must do our part to progress in the path that lays out before us. It is a difficult task that requires constant effort. On this journey of life, it is necessary to resist, fight. It is a daily struggle. The battles are fought in our heart, wounded by our sin and that of others. We experience passions and disordered appetites that we must overcome with the help of grace and our continuous effort.
At every step of the way we either grow in communion or distance ourselves from Christ. Thus, the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on Christ.
It is possible to be defeated in some of the battles we fight. We can certainly stumble and fall during our journey. St. Paul does not boast about being victorious always and everywhere or to have won the race. He has fought. He has run. The same applies to us. We must fight against sin. Firstly, in all its manifestations in our own life and the, of course, in society and the world.
We have to bear in mind what St. John Paul II said: the dividing line between good and evil does not separate among people, it goes right through every human heart. This fight takes place above any other place inside of us. We all experience an inner division. As St. Paul says in the letter to the Romans, we do not do the good we long for and do the bad we should not.
To think that evil manifests itself only in others or society, culture or the world, to believe that we are only fighting against others, as if we were beyond good and evil, is not to know the reality of our existence. It is to be living in a fantasy world, to have lost notion of our own personal sin, or worse and more tragic still to have slipped into corruption.
Beyond the pain of our falls, getting up is the most important part. Rather, allowing the Lord to lift us up is key so that we can continue on our journey towards the goal of our existence as we hold his hand.
If we are to stand up, we must acknowledge our need. We have to avoid the temptation of the Pharisee described by the Lord in the parable taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke that is proclaimed this Sunday. It is a very real danger, ever looming, ever latent.
Those of us who wish to follow the will of God must keep our eyes fixed on Him, his holiness, his love, his mercy and try to live In a way consistent with the mercy we have encountered. Thus, the importance of the sacrament of Confession which helps us to see us as God sees us, just as we are. It also pours on us the oil of mercy that heals the wounds of sin.
We, Christians, are not the sect of the perfect, but the community of the redeemed. We are aware of our sinfulness and strive to grow in the love of God, his mercy, his grace that heals our human condition and brings it to perfection.
St. Paul and all the saints illustrate with their lives and their deaths, the heights that creatures can reach when we open ourselves to grace and cooperate with it, when we fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid