Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Running the race that lies before us

The first race for the Catholic Middle School Athletic Association this year was run on Yom Kippur at Sunken Meadow State Park. It was a marathon day for me; I choreographed the schedule the night before, including planning for a “meal” in the car.

I had to leave my house in the early afternoon to get to the school, pick up all the girls on the team, and drive them to Sunken Meadow State Park. After the race, we ate pepperoni, crackers, snap peas, and fruit on our way to softball practice. Near the field we stopped at McDonald’s for a 20-pack of chicken nuggets. I treated myself to a chocolate shake.

I remember the first year we started with organized sports. My eldest was 4 years old and we had started our official homeschooling for kindergarten. Soccer practice was the only place we had to be, twice a week; games were on Sundays. There was a family there with several foster children, who were all enrolled in teams in our local sports association.

“When do you eat?” I asked the mother incredulously.

“Sometimes we have to eat in the car,” she answered.

I was shocked. I would never let my family get so busy that we couldn’t sit down for a meal.

Eight years later, the joke is on me, and I remembered thinking that during the drive from cross country to softball. NEVER judge another parent until you have been in their shoes! As any professional runner will tell you, part of “running the race that lies before us” is never looking back to see what the other runners are doing.

You can see my eldest daughter (in the far right of this picture) as she breaks away from the pack and takes the lead in the first leg of this race. She is looking back, something one of her coaches noticed and pointed out to her. She finished up sixth in the race. My second daughter finished around number 20 and kept her focus straight ahead. Who did better? The motto of every runner is: “Do your personal best.”

This point is also made clear in one of the books in the C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, “The Horse and His Boy”. The young girl asks Aslan what happened to a boy who had disobeyed and the answer is: “That is his story, not yours.”

According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “great cloud of witnesses” includes all the saints from the beginning to the end of time. Saints are any people that are, or will be, accepted into Heaven; only the Lamb of God knows who these are for sure, but the Church will occasionally canonize those who have lived such a holy life that they are virtually certain they must be in Heaven.

These witnesses are all cheering us on, as we strive to achieve God’s plan for us. Going to Confession helps us to unburden the sins that are bogging us down. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus, not the people around us, during our race. That means not being too bothered by what others think of us, and not losing our focus by dwelling on what others are doing.

Hebrews 12: 1-2(NAB)
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. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.

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