Running into Sainthood

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Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.[1] During his funeral, six days later, the crowds gathered to say their last goodbyes to the beloved pope while chanting at unison: “Sancto Subito!” They were petitioning for his immediate sanctification. As you probably know, canonization is the process of some traditional churches by which a person is granted the highest title of Saint. The process requires a thorough review of the person's life and work and a democratic election by representatives of the church. I am not against formally recognizing our heroes in the faith; however, the Bible calls saints all believers and followers of Jesus Christ. You and I are saints by faith. We may never be canonized, but we are made holy by persevering in him, just as Revelation says (Revelation 14:12 NASB):

Here is the perseverance of the saints
who keep the commandments of God
and their faith in Jesus.

In light of this, I would like to share how training for the marathon brought me into deeper sanctity of the soul.

Running the Race
What does a marathon have to do with making people saints? Well, for one, the Christian faith is always compared to a long race. The Bible is full of references that tell us so. Hebrews 12:1b AMP, for example, says: “…let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.” Saint Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:7-8a GNT: “I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith. And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God.”

Second, running the race is a metaphor for living the Christian faith in fullness of goodness, virtue, and worthiness of imitation. Goodness, virtue, and exemplary life are the result of the deep conversion of the heart that comes from dedicating our lives to God. Finishing the race is close to a miracle; the crowning moment of sainthood.

Pick Up a Good Plan
Make a decision for the plan that you are going to follow. If you haven’t made a decision about which plan you are going to follow for the event, you will not be able to run the marathon. To run a marathon, it is crucial to pick up the right training plan so that you know how to train. It is even more crucial to follow a plan by someone who has actually done it before you. It is crucial that you follow the plan exactly.

In your faith life, you also need to make a decision for Jesus every day. If you have not made a decision for Jesus now, it will be too late on the day of reckoning. But if you do, you are made “Sancto Subito” by your faith in Him. In the same way that running constitutes you a runner, following Jesus constitutes you a saint. It is important to follow someone who has done it before you. As a Christian I believe that Jesus has done it before me and so I have picked up his plan. Since I have picked up his plan to follow, I need to stick to it, following the word that he has given me.

Do it at Your Own Pace
To run a marathon, you need to understand your body and run it at a pace that your body can withstand and for which you trained. If you try to run too hard and too fast, you risk injury and subsequent failure. No matter how much the music along the marathon route seems to urge you to run faster or the flow of adrenaline in your body entices you to accelerate, go at the pace that you trained.

In your faith life too, it is crucial to run at the pace that you have chosen. Do not worry that others are growing at a much faster rate, or that you have overtaken others. Just enjoy the walk, or should I say the run, with the Lord. He will run with you at your own pace.

Run with Endurance
No matter how much you have trained, the last few miles of a race are always a challenge. It is the training and achieving the goal (or crossing the line) that you have in mind that keeps you going. Focusing on the goal helps to keep you running in spite of weary legs and cramped muscles and to press on towards the finish line.

In your faith life too, you could be weary at times; questioning whether you will reach the end, whether you will be able to finish. Focus on the final goal; it is not a medal of iron or steel that awaits, but the crown of life that the LORD himself will give to you on that day. That crown will help you stay faithful to stay the course and keep on running.

I urge you to run your own race with endurance, knowing that one day, you will be welcomed into His Kingdom with words that echo those of Saint Paul above:

You have done your best in the race,
you have run the full distance,
and you have kept the faith.
Here is your victory prize. Welcome to the kingdom of saints.

If you are like me and are interested in living your life for the greater glory of God, use the experience of running not only as a means of physical exercise and health, but, also as a means of growing in holiness for the greater glory of God. Go run into sainthood.

[1] Funeral of Pope John Paul II, Wikipedia, Last Accessed 11/15/2012.

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