I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
No one can challenge the words of St. Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7-8. He had indeed “competed well” and “finished the race.” Just think of his numerous missionary journeys, his tireless labor in spreading the gospel, and the careful way he built the church. Paul definitely earned a crown of righteousness. But is that crown reserved only for those who endure hardships and persecution, and travel thousands of miles to preach Christ crucified?
What about the poor widow who gave all her money—just two small coins—to the Temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). She probably never preached a word of the gospel or traveled more than a few miles from her home. Yet like Paul, she gave generously out of a heroic devotion to God. Who can say that her “crown of righteousness” wasn’t just as splendid as Paul’s? Who knows? Perhaps her love was even greater than the apostle’s!
Scripture tells us that God doesn’t reward us for our actions as much as for what’s behind them. It’s what’s in our hearts that counts. There’s nothing we can offer God that he doesn’t already have (Psalm 50:11-12). We can literally give away everything and even give up our lives, but none of these things will make us holy on their own (1 Corinthians 13:3). Only by uniting our works, our hearts, and our minds to the will of Christ can we be transformed as Catholic men into his image and likeness.
God isn’t looking for superstars. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the most energetic man in your parish or whether you are shy and retiring and can’t even imagine preaching the gospel. What matters is your relationship with the Lord. Brother Lawrence (1614 –1691) entered a Carmelite priory in Paris as a lay brother, since he did not have the education necessary to become a priest. He spent almost all of his life within the walls of the priory, working in the kitchen and, in his later years, as a repairer of sandals. Yet many were attracted to his holiness and came to him for spiritual guidance. The advice and spiritual wisdom he gave them, in conversations and in many letters, would later become the basis for the classic Christian book, The Practice of the Presence of God, compiled after his death. The book is still popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, and to this day he is remembered for the ongoing intimacy he had in his relationship with God.
Like Brother Lawrence, we too need to focus on our relationship with the Lord and God’s will for us: “To do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We need to faithfully “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1). Then one day we will hear these marvelous words of Jesus spoken to us: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:21).
“Jesus, I want to live for you. Help me to see you even in the most ordinary circumstances of my day and to unite everything I do to your will for my life. Lord, I commit my whole life to you, and everything I am or ever will be. I love you Lord—help me to love you more!”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. St. Paul says these words in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” What are some characteristics of his life that allowed him to say these words?
2. Brother Lawrence is an example of a man who finished well his life, in spite of his lowly circumstances. What characteristics of his life do you think caused this to happen?
3. At the end of your life, how important would it be to you to be able to say the words of St. Paul from 2 Timothy 4:7? What are some steps you can take to allow this to happen?
4. “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” How important is it to you to hear these words when you stand before the Lord? Is it important enough to commit yourself to trying to live an authentic Christian life as a Catholic man of God? Why or why not?
5.If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for the grace to be able to finish well your life as a Catholic man. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.