Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Endurance of the Heart

Readings: 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Psalms 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5; Luke 8:4-15

Much of it is mind over matter. That’s what distance runners tell us. Here, for example are some quotes from an online article on the importance of mental endurance in distance running: A lot of running is mental," says Chicago ultrarunner Scott Jacaway. "You need the physical part, but when you go long distance, it becomes a mental thing." …. "You've got to get yourself mentally to Never-Neverland," says Stuart Schulman, a former marathoner and ultrarunner... When he ran, he says he'd refocus his mind off the race and onto something else, like the scenery, "so you don't concentrate on your misery. And then you just wake up five miles later."

Don’t concentrate on your misery… Sounds like good advice not just for runners but also for us Christians, called as we are to go the distance in following Christ. As Jesus tells us in the all too familiar parable of the sower and the seed: the ones who yield a rich harvest are those who persevere in keeping the word of God. Similarly, in the first reading, Paul puts to Timothy the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… In our efforts to heed the call to perseverance, perhaps there’s something to learn from the distance runners. Perhaps it is important for us to learn, from time to time, to refocus our thoughts, to take our minds off our own difficulties and discomfort and onto the One whom we follow, whom, as Paul tells us, at the due time will be revealed by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all…

Not an easy thing to do, especially since the revelation we are awaiting comes from One whom no one has seen or is able to see… How then to set our minds on this invisible One? Will we not rather tend to fall back on feeling sorry for ourselves? Which is why it’s important to see that perseverance is not just about mind over matter. It really involves primarily the heart. Towards the end of the article mentioned earlier, for example, we find these words: "I've always felt like my secret weapon is my love of the sport," ... "I also remind myself that the process is more important than the outcome, that racing is something I choose to and love to do."

How powerful is love if it can motivate someone to sacrifice so much all for the sake of a sport. And how much more powerful will love be if it were for the Word who became flesh and died for us, as well as for the people in whom the Word remains present in our midst. Who then are the ones who yield a rich harvest? Who are the ones able to persevere in the midst of difficulty and discomfort? Not so much those who only have strong minds, but those who with a noble and generous heart have heard the word and take it to themselves…

How are you running the race today?


  1. It was 4 - 5 years ago when I committed myself to a regular exercise routine because of health concerns. When I started, it was difficult to say the least: setting aside time daily for the punishing routine, the aching muscles and desperate gasping for air. But at the end of each session, without fail, the sense of well-being was a tangible reward. Now, I cannot do without my endorphin fix. Now, I exercise for the love of it.

    So I can empathize with Fr Chris when he writes that more than mind over matter, it is the heart. Like the mind and the body, the heart can be "trained". It is trained by divine wisdom in the various ways it manifests itself and speaks to us. We have only to be attentive. In the Gospel of Monday 24th September, Jesus exclaims that to those who have much, more will be given, whereas to those who have little, even the little that they have will be taken away from them. Attentiveness to the word of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit has a snowballing effect.

    The late Fr Reid in his Bible classes used to exhort us to persevere in the race, because everyone is cheering you on from the sidelines. I can sense him cheering us on now even more palpably.

  2. I think that life itself is a race, and that I'd like to achieve certain things before I reach the finishing line.

    One of my bigger challenges is raising well-adjusted and well-brought up kids, and not neglecting my marriage, myself, God and friends in the meantime.

    It's really easy when we're tired and busy to push our spouses away and I'm guilty of this. Marriage is also a race, and a 2-legged one at that. My husband and I have different parenting styles and this also creates some tension.

    At the office, there is also a "race" to perform, to get increments/bonus and to be promoted. It's not just the tangible monetary rewards, but I think that we also want to feel that our work counts for something, and would like to be recognised for something which takes up so much of our waking hours.