“Why then, since we are watched from above by such a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of all that weighs us down, of the sinful habit that clings so closely, and run, with all endurance, the race for which we are entered. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the origin and the crown of all faith, who, to win his prize of blessedness, endured the cross and made light of its shame, Jesus, who now sits on the right of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
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 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).
This article was first published on The Catholic Gentleman.