As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)
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. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. (Romans 8:18)
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
When you watch your favorite athlete what do you notice? Are you impressed by the grace and skill he brings to the game? Are you awed by his flawless technique? No doubt, you’re also taken with how much he seems to enjoy what he is doing. Because it looks so easy and fun, we should not assume that he is so good just because he was born with all those talents and skills. We know of many talented athletes who were failures through lack of discipline. For most athletes, to get to the top of their profession requires rigorous discipline.
Discipline is also an important element in the call of Christ to us to be Catholic men of God. Jesus wants us to receive the greatest prize of all-eternal life. And so he warns us not to fall into the trap that the people of Noah’s time did. They did all the things we do today: eating, drinking, buying, selling, and getting married. There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, of course. But the problem was that in all their busyness, there was little or no room for God. We are all on the way to heaven, and we should let nothing get in our way!
The problem is that the word “discipline” can scare us off, especially spiritual discipline. But spiritual discipline does not have to be depressing! Such disciplines as praying and reading Scriptures every day, doing a daily examination of conscience, attending Mass and the Sacraments, putting to death our flesh, avoiding temptations, repenting of our sins, and being merciful and just to others are not intended to be heavy burdens. Scripture tells us to “persevere in running the race.” But then it adds that Jesus died “for the sake of the joy that lay before him” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He didn’t drag his cross-he embraced it! As those who are in training for the next life, we will face our own share of challenges, and yes even suffering. But they will all seem light if we remember that we will overcome them by God’s grace and if we remember to keep in mind “the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18).
The key to discipline is to maintain our vision of what’s ahead. It may help to use Paul’s imagery of the sprinter. Picture yourself at the starting line looking far down the track, and at the finish line is-heaven! Is there anything that would stop you from running as hard and fast as you can to get there? Whatever it is, just let go of it, and feel yourself fly! Know that no matter how hard things get, you will be rewarded. And this is not some temporary reward, but as St. Paul tells us, our reward is an “an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
So Brothers, let’s “Run so as to win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). One day, Jesus himself will tell you: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
“Lord, keep my eyes fixed on heaven and my heart conformed to your will. I ask for the grace to persevere in running the race set before me. Give me only what I need to be your servant so that I can know the joy of your presence for all eternity.”
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the Scriptures above as it relates to exercising spiritual discipline in running the race of life toward our heavenly home. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?
- 2. What is your response when you see lists of spiritual disciplines like those provided in the article, i.e., “praying and reading Scriptures every day, doing a daily examination of conscience, attending Mass and the Sacraments, putting to death our flesh, avoiding temptations, repenting of our sins, and being merciful and just to others”? Do you see them as burdensome or as ones that can help us “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”?
- 3. The article ends with these words: “So Brothers, let’s ‘Run so as to win’ (1 Corinthians 9:24). One day, Jesus himself will tell you: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21).” How important is it to hear those words of Jesus to you at the end of your life?
- 4. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for the grace to be the men of God you are called to be. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.