|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pace Your Race
First Sunday of Advent – December 6, 2015
When I was younger I participated in long distance running. I had a great running coach who was very disciplined, strategic racer. He would advise, “Remember go out strong at the beginning, maintain a good, steady pace for the race and then finish strong in the end. Feel the rhythm of the race. Pace your race.” Then he would add, “But you have to size up your competition; if you have a competitor who finishes well, then you have to go out strong and stay strong until you wear him down. Push him so at the end of the race, he has nothing left.”
Into the season, the coach got sick and we ended up having a different trainer, our sprinting coach. His strategy was go all out, all the time! We began losing because we could not go all out all the time. It ended up becoming a long distance sprint.
In today’s readings, we hear the first letter to the Thessalonians, this is Paul’s first letter that is recorded and the first of the New Testament. At the time of its writing, Paul believed that Christ was coming back imminently. His attitude in this letter is to go all out, all the time! Jesus is coming back right away!
But later on in Paul’s life when he wrote his last letter to the Romans, he realized that he was not going to see Christ’s return, that he himself was going to die before. So his theology changed from that of a sprinting coach to a long-distance coach. He started to give advice to be in it for the long haul – to be in it our entire life. This advice is very different. Yet it is the advice in today’s first reading and the Gospel: at all times, we must remain vigilant, steadfast to the Lord’s presence in our life. We recognize the race of life has a rhythm. We now begin a new season called Advent. It is the way we begin our new liturgical year in the church; we prepare for the sacred, the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas. We focus on Christ, who is already with us, and yet He will come again. But we live in the in-between times and in these in-between times, we are called to remain steadfast, vigilant at all times to the Lord.
The race of our lives has different ebbs and flows. There are times when it is easy, when things are going well, it’s easy to believe in Christ. When the race gets a little rough, we hit a tough climb in the race of life. We must remain steadfast to our faith in Christ. It is He who we celebrate in the Emmanuel, the Christ, who is always with us in every season of our life.