Resurrection Energy for Running the Race by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" And he replied to them, "What sort of things?" They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see."
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
In almost every account of the resurrection we find a sense of urgency. On Easter morning Mary Magdalene and the other women race from the tomb to tell the Apostles. On hearing the news, Peter and John race back to the tomb to see for themselves.
Again, at the Sea of Tiberius, Peter cannot wait for the boat to make it back to shore: he jumps in the water and swims there himself. And when the disciples who encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus realize who it was who accompanied them, "they set out at once and (return) to Jerusalem" (Lk 24:33). Regarding this last example, keep in mind that it was already night, Jerusalem was about seven miles away, and ancient Palestinian infrastructure did not make night travel convenient - or safe. Still, they race back to tell the Apostles.
To appreciate this Easter urgency and the racing of the first disciples, we must distinguish it from our own rushing about and busyness. Yes, we are "on the go" constantly - but not necessarily for good reasons. Contrary to what the modern world thinks, swiftness and efficiency are not virtues in and of themselves. In fact, much that passes for efficiency is really just wasting time because it is frantic and aimless. Further, we can use busyness as a form of noise to distract us from those deeper, permanent, eternal matters that silence allows to surface. And often we hurry for purely worldly motives: to buy the latest thing ("Run, don't walk!"), to get to the sale before it ends or to get to work and make more money.
The disciples, however, ran with clear and noble purpose. The women at the tomb and the disciples in Emmaus had encountered the risen Lord, and went with haste to make Him known. Peter and John ran to the empty tomb to see evidence of His resurrection. And Peter jumped from the boat to see Our Lord Himself.
In each case, the purpose was clear: the risen Christ either spurred them on or drew them forward. They had both a clear starting point and a clear purpose. Further, they also had the necessary inspiration - energy. If you will - to run. Indeed it seems that their encounter with Jesus imparted to them a joy that made them swift in the things of faith. Thus they had all the things necessary for a good run: a starting point, a goal and the energy.
The race inspired by Our risen Lord characterizes not just the resurrection appearances but also the entire Christian life. St. Thomas observes that genuine Christian love imbues the soul with "a certain quickness and joy." As witnesses to Christ's resurrection, we should also exhibit that same prompt response and swiftness. We, no less than they, possess the necessary starting point, finish line and power to run the race. Our starting point is Jesus, the crucified, risen from the dead. Our goal is to make Him known. Our energy and strength is the grace of Christ.
About that last point, notice that it is an encounter with Christ "in the breaking of the bread" that inspires the disciples to leave Emmaus and go swiftly back to Jerusalem. This encounter with Christ - time spent in the presence of the Eucharist - inspires the race. But we have access to this as well. He is present to us in the breaking of the bread no less that He was to them. We simply need to imitate their attentive plea: "Stay with us" (Lk 24:29).
Thus it happens (in a wonderful Christian paradox) that the athlete for Christ gets in shape and prepares for the race by spending time sitting still in the Lord's presence.
St. Paul understood well the race of the Christian life. He exhorts us: "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" (l Cor 9:24).
May time spent in the Lord's presence inspire and strengthen us to run the race of the Christian life. Then, at the end of our course, may we say with the Apostle: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:7).
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