I Have Finished the Race, I Have Kept the Faith

10-26-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Manasseh Iorchir, VC

There are many who believe that other than Christ, St. Paul had the most significant influence on the Theology, Liturgy and life of the early Church. His description of his personal encounter with faith in Christ and his reaction to that encounter amidst great persecution and hardship shows why many believers hold him in such high regard.

In the Second reading this weekend, Paul acknowledges to Timothy, his son in faith, that his life is being poured out like a libation. He sadly, yet courageously informs Timothy that the time for his departure from this world is close, but he affirms that he has competed well for the crown of righteousness, he has finished his heavenly race, he has kept the faith. The Apostle to the Gentiles hopes for the crown of Glory that would be awarded him on the day the Lord shall call him to Himself. Paul’s positive attitude in the face of imminent danger and his verifiable claim to faithfulness to the Gospel challenges all of us to attempt an honest introspection that would help us to evaluate our fidelity to the Gospel and its values. If we find ourselves in Paul’s situation, if we are confronted with the reality of the end of life on this side, will we have the courage to say like St. Paul “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? Let us remember that Paul did not pick and choose what Christian doctrines to adhere to or discard, he was not a seasonal or fair weather Disciple, he trusted God in all circumstances, he was never ashamed or afraid to preach the Crucified Christ and teach the faith, and he even prayed for the forgiveness of his friends who deserted him at the most trying period of his Apostleship. We shall earn the privilege to repeat these instructive words of St. Paul only after we have imitated him as he imitated Christ (1Corinthians 11:1). The journey towards righteousness is not an easy one, sometimes it can even be very lonely because friends and companions can desert us. When this happens, the Disciple should accept his lonely witnessing as a blessed cross.

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus contrasts the prayers of the Pharisee and a tax collector, two diametrically contrasting personalities that represented opposing attitudes to faith and prayer. The Pharisee, a self-righteous and strict adherence to Jewish religious precepts approached the Altar of God with arrogance and spoke his “prayer to himself.” He simply lauded himself and condemned others. The Tax Collector on the other hand acknowledged his unworthiness by standing off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to Heaven, he simply cried out to God for mercy. Jesus concludes that this man went home justified while the Tax collector failed to find Divine favor as a direct consequence of his unmitigated arrogance. True repentance and reconciliation with God comes after a humble acknowledgement of guilt and an honest recognition of our perpetual need for God’s mercy. Each of us is generously endowed with a conscience that guides us towards righteousness and warns us we are about faltering. What God does not require of us is constituting ourselves into the conscience of other people and so becoming self-styled judges of others. Any Christian who finds judging others more appealing than an honest self evaluation that leads to veritable repentance is himself in urgent need of reconversion.

Let us ask the Lord to bless us with resilience so we can commit ourselves to the Heavenly race and may we attain true repentance through humble acknowledgement of our perpetual need of Divine mercy.

Please be kind and may God bless you.

Fr. Manasseh