In life, we are all, in one way or the other, involved in all kinds of specific races— family, people, work, spouse, etc. But, the 2nd reading for this 20th Sunday in ordinary times, year C, (Hebrew 12:1-4) looks at Christian life, our life in Christ Jesus as a primary race that we must run in such a ways as to win it. Scripture says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Cor 9:24).
When it comes to this race, we are each on a different course, on a different lane, each with it is own unique difficulties and challenges. My race will not be like yours. Some of the things I struggle with along the way may not be your struggles. However the finish line and the strategy are the same. To win this race, our reading said that we must:
(a) Lay aside every weight and cut off from Sin. The weight being referred to here is not just sin, for the author, later, talks about getting ourselves rid of sin. The weight here is anything which prevents us from running our Christian race as well as we ought. There are things which are not sinful but are not beneficial to us as Christians. As Scripture says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor 10:23). The question to ask is, “What is it in my life that is preventing me from running the Christian race as well as I ought to and what am I doing to get rid of those? We, also must get rid of sin, be dead to sin, that is, to have a sense of sense of sin and to constantly seek reconciliation with God, self, and others as opposed to being dead in sin, whereby we have no sense sin and have no regard for reconciliation.
(b) We need to run this race with endurance, with patience, steadfastness, perseverance, as Scripture says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast to what you have that no one may take your crown.”(Rev 3:11). It is not that we will not fall, but that we will not give up. As St Paul puts it, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9).
(c) We need to take the words of St. Paul to heart “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. (Phil 3:13-14).
(d) We need to focus our attention, at all times on Jesus Christ; that is to say, we should look away from those things which will hinder us from fixing our eyes firmly on the Lord because He is the supplier of everything we need to run the race and in Him we will find a clear example to imitate. Jesus endured the cross by looking past it to the joy that would follow and so must we.