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Keep the Faith & Finish the Race

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Beloved:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
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.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 71:8-9, 14-15AB, 16-17, 22

R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall be filled with your praise,
with your glory day by day.
Cast me not off in my old age;
as my strength fails, forsake me not.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
But I will always hope
and praise you ever more and more.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
I will treat of the mighty works of the Lord;
O GOD, I will tell of your singular justice.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
So will I give you thanks with music on the lyre,
for your faithfulness, O my God!
I will sing your praises with the harp,
O Holy One of Israel!
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Gospel: Luke 2:41-51

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

NAB

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I ran my first marathon in 2005 in Honolulu, Hawaii. I gazed at fireworks lighting up the predawn sky with a jittery stomach at the start, the nervous shuffle of thousands of feet around me. It was glorious to be running with so many people, a mass of enthusiasm and energy and potential all traveling together toward a common goal.

Some miles were effortless. We floated past mountains and sea and people and barely felt the road beneath us.

Some miles were terribly hard. I sang to myself and counted the times my left foot struck the ground while my eyes desperately scanned for the next mile marker. It hurt more than I expected.

I often think of that race as a metaphor for life. Some mornings, I can grab my coffee and jump right into the day, keeping pace with whatever comes. Sometimes, though, the day feels overwhelming and the finish line is too far away.

Saint Paul’s words to Timothy remind me of those mornings when I feel outmatched by the day ahead. Paul doesn’t pretend that it will always be easy to live our vocations. He admonishes the young Timothy to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” Ready or not, Paul says, it’s time to go. No matter what else is happening, “be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”

Paul’s exhortations apply to us just as much as they did to his young protege. Each of us is called by God for some vocation. When what God is asking seems too hard, we can take courage from Paul’s words. In times where we’d rather avoid God’s call and do something else instead, Paul says, “fulfill your ministry.” Put up with it. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

Paul shares his hard-fought wisdom as he nears the end of the race. It hasn’t been easy—he knows what it means to want to give up. Paul, though, was no quitter. He was persistent through the dangers and discomforts. He has competed well. He has kept the faith.

I want to be able to say that, too . . . don’t you?

Today, even if we fear we’ll never get to the end of the race, we can take small steps—the persistent steps that move us closer to the finish line.

I’m going to start by turning on the coffee pot and asking God to meet me there.

Because of the communion of saints, Saint Paul is actually cheering each of us on today, just as he did Timothy. Find a place to leave yourself a note that reminds you to keep running even when you feel like stopping—maybe “Keep the Faith” by your toothbrush or “Be Persistent” by your computer—something to help you remember Paul’s encouragement. We do not run the race alone!

photo credit

Abbey Dupuy writes her life as a homeschooling mama of four while relying on coffee and grace. You can find out more about her here.

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