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August 1986

... Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1b-2).

To understand the richness of this Word of Life fully, it must be read together with the previous verse: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."

The apostle was writing to Christians whose faith had been severely tested by the persecution they had faced. They were beginning to show signs of weakening, because, as we know, when a trial is prolonged, there is the danger of doubting God's love and of giving up the fight.

In order to encourage them, St Paul likens the Christian life to a sports competition. We are like athletes, who are running a race in a stadium. Athletes are surrounded by thousands of spectators who support the different runners. We too are surrounded by a host of spectators. They are those who have already won through the trials of faith, the key figures in the history of salvation. And, today, we would add to these the saints, the athletes of faith who have gone before us. They now look down from heaven and support us. They are not just well-wishers, who encourage us with nice words, but they are witnesses, who share the same faith and who have won through the same trials as ourselves. We are urged on by their example, which makes us certain we can reach our goal.

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

We can continue in this vein and say that, in the spiritual race we are running, there are three things which are indispensable if we want to reach our goal. First of all, so as to run faster, we should free ourselves of any unnecessary weight; that is, the things of the world that can get in our way and the bonds of sin.

Secondly, perseverance is needed. We must have stamina and endurance, which come from the conviction that God is with us and from our deciding that we want to succeed.

But above all we must look to Jesus, who has gone before us and who is our guide. He is our model. Jesus is called the pioneer and perfecter of faith because it is his gift to us and because, in the glory he has reached, we find the fullness of faith.

During his life on earth, Jesus did not choose ease and comfort, but a life completely like ours. He too was tested. He lived his human experience like us, through many sufferings and difficulties and, in particular, through the great trial of being crucified and forsaken. But his unshakeable trust in the Father's love never lessened. He remained faithful right to the end and so reached the goal.

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

This Word of Life draws our attention to the meaning of trials. We should be convinced that trials are indispensable for growth in the Christian life - so as to reach the goal to which the Father calls us. We cannot do without trials if the light of God's word is to become incarnate in us and become the substance of our whole life. God has to send us trials. The trials we have overcome give our life new vigour, greater depth and consistency. We must persevere when there are trials. If we always look to Jesus, and, above all, to Jesus crucified and forsaken, then this perseverance is possible. Love for him will make us embrace the trials, one after another, often without realising that they are real trials.

By focussing on Jesus crucified and forsaken, we overcome discouragement and weakness of will and always have the courage to start again, even after stopping or falling.

So let's run with perseverance, looking only to Jesus crucified and forsaken.

Chiara Lubich

(Thanks are due to J.D. for supplying a copy of the commentary to this Word of Life.)

 

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