“Run so as to win”

by May Tam

In today's Gospel, we are told that Jesus is resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, the city of His destiny where He would accomplish His own Passover. The road to this destination is long and treacherous, and the travel is often marked by obstacles, unexpected events and stops.

As we read on, the first hindrance is the Samaritans whose unfriendly attitude seems not solely sprang from their ancestral animosity with the Jews, but rather this time, more on recognizing Jesus' determination to Jerusalem, “. . . because His face was set for Jerusalem” (Lk 9:53). Then comes the angry remark from the “sons of thunder” – the calling forth of heavenly punishment to the Samaritans. The reaction of James and John when faced with hostility exposes their ignorance about Jesus' mission, His mission of love. Jesus' journey to Jerusalem is the journey of manifesting God's love, not retaliation.

Then comes the encounters with individuals who wish to follow Him. While it appears that Jesus' replies are cruel and in contradiction to works of piety, He is making known a principle, that is, nothing should take precedence over following Him and proclaiming the kingdom of God. The two areas – the severing ties with one's family and the itinerant insecurity – are what Jesus Himself is experiencing (rf Mt 6:20, 12:46-50; Lk 9:58). The absolute commitment without regret or second thought is what Jesus demands and is what Jesus Himself is practicing.

Where does this “resoluteness” of Jesus come from? Could it be His stubbornness, idealism or simply His total love and dedication to His Father? Jesus knows perfectly His Father's will, to do His will and fulfill His work is Jesus' “food” which sustains and gives meaning to His life (rf Jn 4:34). In a similar manner, Paul, an itinerant preacher, whose resoluteness in preaching the Gospel is but an echo of his master's. Why did Paul subject himself to all the hardships and grief and even to his death in Rome? (rf 2 Cor 11:23-29). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of his discovery of knowing Jesus, “The supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says he is taken over by Christ who “has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). Due to these experiences, Paul tells the Corinthians that he cannot be defeated, “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9).

Dear friends, in our faith journey, there will certainly be ebb and flow, bad times and good times, but they are part of the essentials that strengthen us. The key is to persevere as St Paul says, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but one wins the prize? Run so as to win” (1 Cor 9:24).