An Encouraging Word — With saints’ help, we can persevere

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-4

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Many of you might remember the film, The Sixth Sense, which tells the story of Cole Sear, a troubled, isolated boy, who is able to see and talk to the dead. The most famous line from the film belongs to the young boy: “I see dead people!”

In a way, that is exactly what the writer of the reading cited above is telling us when he says, “we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.” He is teaching us four things:

First, this Scripture reading is telling us that living the Christian life is like running a race. It is not a stroll for the lazy and indifferent. It takes the serious discipline of an athlete.

We have to train every day of our lives. We have to know where we are going, remain focused, and keep our eyes on the finish line.

G.K. Chesterton said it best when he wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting: it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Second, this Scripture reading is telling us that there are people “in the stands,” people who have run the race before us and who have already crossed the finish line, who are cheering us on.

This is precisely what we mean when we say in our Creed that we believe in the “communion of the saints.” By that, we mean that we believe that there is an ongoing and real connection between those who have practiced our faith before us and those of us who are trying to practice our faith today — an unbroken connection between those living here and those living in eternity.

Third, this Scripture reading is telling us to “persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Dropping out of the race is always an option because it is “too hard,” because it is “too much trouble,” because it “demands too much,” because it is “too inconvenient” or because “others around us have dropped out.”

Sometimes it means running against the wind, swimming against the tide and taking the road less traveled.

Fourth, this Scripture reading is telling us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” Distractions are always a problem, no matter how many laps we have completed.

There are those who seek to draw our attention away from the race we are running. However, we must remain focused on what we are doing and why we are doing, until we hear Jesus say to us at the finish line, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master!”

Let us encourage one another in this race and let us never forget that as we persevere in running it that we have help from both heaven and earth as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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