A man had a dream where he saw an angel holding a torch on his right hand and a pail of water on his left. He asked the angel what the torch and the pail of water were for. The angel responded, “With this torch, I will burn the mansions of heaven and with this pail of water, I will put out the fires of hell.” The man asked, “Why?” The angel responded, “Then we will know who it is who really love God.”
Many Christians endeavor to be good because they fear the fires of hell. For others, it is the mansions of heaven. In any endeavor—be it personal, political, economical, or spiritual—people are usually driven by two motivations: the fear of punishment and the joy of reward. While both motivations can be legitimate starting points to achieving a goal, they do not suffice in the realm of the spiritual life. Here, the person of Jesus is the central goal. Everything else is secondary. In fact, if Christ is not the central goal, everything else can be a distraction.
In today’s First Reading, Paul uses the imagery of an athlete, a runner in a race. He undergoes the rigor, the demand and discipline of training to win a crown. A crown that is, after all, perishable: “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. . . .” That is not enough. Paul reminds the Church in Corinth that a Christian is different. He runs for “a crown that is imperishable.”
In my last year in the seminary prior to ordination, my spiritual director told me, “Ordination is not the goal of your long formation. It is configuration in Christ. If the imitation of Christ is not your main goal, do not apply for ordination.”
This year, I am celebrating my twenty-sixth year in the priesthood. As I get older in the priesthood, I feel all the more the thug of power, ambition, and success. I still get distracted by so many things in the race of life. That is why until now, I constantly remind myself, “If Christ is not the prize you are aiming for, you are running the wrong race.” Fr. Joel O. Jason
Whatever race you are running, is intimacy with Christ a part of your goal?
Lord, thank You for the many dreams that inspire me. Thank You for my many successes. May all of them find its finality in You. Amen.
*This excerpt is taken from Sabbath 2022, still available at Feast Books. Just send a message thru our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FeastBooksPH to get your copy.
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