5 April 2017
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” [2 Tim 4:7]. These words of St. Paul could easily have been said by the three young men thrown into the white-hot furnace. In spite of King Nebuchadnezzar’s threats and the direness of the situation, they competed well and kept the faith. They lived, and even converted the king in the end.
And the “competition” Paul speaks about is a reference to life in general. We’re confronted all the time with things like temptation, or the truth of a matter, or the reality of a fallen world. They’re like our competitors. And the “competition” is in how we respond to them. When temptation gains ground on us, what’s our response? When we’re hit with the truth of something, what’s our response? When we hear about tragedy on the news, what’s our response? It’s a competition between all those things and how we respond.
Now the Jews in the gospel were confronted in a big way by the truth. These particular Jews had begun to believe in Jesus. But when Jesus pushed them to examine their way of life, they resisted him. That was their response to the truth he brought. They stumbled like a runner might stumble in a race.
And stumbling along our journey of faith isn’t necessarily a problem. After all, stumbling itself can be part of the “competition.” It’s all in how we respond to it; how we respond to the ups and downs of life. Our hope is that, in the end, we can each say, “I have finished the race—I didn’t give up; I have kept the faith—I was faithful to the Spirit of Christ as much as I could be.”