by Melissa Foo
The current season of Ordinary Time may seem like a non-event and of lesser significance, but it is far from ordinary. It is a season where we are called to growth and purification, and remains the longest season of the liturgical calendar. Yet, the reality of this season is a struggle that comes with keeping a consistent pace, where some of us find ourselves relying on “major” events to pick up the pace and keep our faith going. Though we may have already passed what may appear like more exciting seasons such as Advent and Christmas and await Lent and Easter, nowhere in this season of Ordinary Time have we been invited to pause for a moment from entering deeper into a life with Jesus and allowing the mystery of Christ to unfold before us. Instead, the invitation to enter more deeply into a relationship with Jesus is one that is timeless and unchanging. Such a reality brings to mind an encouragement St Paul has for us as he writes to the Philippians, “Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus”.
What or rather, Who is this prize?
This race St Paul talks about represents the race of our lives where we enter into a journey of discipleship towards Christ. Amidst the different prizes that may attract our attention in this world, there is only one prize that our hearts truly desire – Jesus Christ.
The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for (CCC 27).
Are we aware that Jesus is the prize to be won and that we are not merely running? Or have we entered into this race cognisant of the prize initially, but gradually distracted by other prizes that cause us to forget the ultimate prize?
As much as we may carry on with our lives being satisfied by our earthly achievements and simple successes such as our careers and grades, we still find our hearts yearning for more. These accomplishments, while good, are temporary, and do not carry us through to eternity. St Paul’s message thus becomes clear “Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). As Christians, we are called to go beyond the temporal to seek what sustains our souls and to strive for the fullest life that only Jesus can offer. “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) This “light of life” is not just offered to a handful, but to anyone who seeks to follow Him – our response then is how we choose to run our race.
How do we keep our eyes on the prize?
1. Fall Down and Get Back Up
Tripping over and falling down in a race is common. But falling down doesn’t mean the race is automatically over. The next rational thing to do is to get back up and complete the race. In our race towards Jesus, our human weakness causes us to fall down and turn away from Jesus because of our sins. The movement our hearts need to make then is to step into humility to examine our disposition in this race and ask the Lord for forgiveness – What are the obstacles that are weighing us down on this journey or blinding us and have caused us to lose sight of Jesus? Is it sin or a lack of commitment? Acknowledging where we are in this race allows us to be honest with God and ourselves, and for Him to meet us exactly where we are at. Only then will we be able to freely receive His grace and mercy.
“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again: for forgiveness has risen from the grave!” St. John Chrysostom
2. Find Your Biggest Cheerleader
Every race has a team of cheerleaders ready to motivate and encourage racers. Likewise, in our race towards Jesus Christ, sitting on the grandstand are our spiritual cheerleaders such as Mother Mary and countless Saints who are constantly interceding for us and uniting our prayers to Jesus. Is there a particular saint whose way of life and love for God speaks personally to you? Allow that saint to inspire you and encourage you in your race! After all, these holy men and women serve as exemplary role models for us and point us towards God.
3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
An important aspect of discipleship is consistency. As we reflect honestly before the Lord, let us recognise that the race we are running is not yet finished and is not a sprint! It is an ongoing marathon and a constant process of purification.
“Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more” (John 15:2)
The Lord’s call to us is to allow Him to be the gardener of our hearts, cutting away the habits that are lifeless and unhelpful for us and instead, till what gives life and brings us closer to Him. This is why the season of the Ordinary Time is so essential for us – Even as the Church slows its pace, we continue to move and follow the Sunday gospel and its readings each week. In that, we accompany Jesus through his public ministry and teachings in a slow but steady manner, preparing our hearts to truly enter into celebration and victory in the forthcoming seasons! Let us persevere in this season of Ordinary Time, running so that we may win the prize – Jesus Christ.
On your mark, ready, steady… GO!