27 October, Sunday – The Final Race

27 Oct 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
  who is no respecter of personages.
He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
  he listens to the plea of the injured party.
He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
  nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.
The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
  his petitions will carry to the clouds.
The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
  until it arrives he is inconsolable,
And the Lord will not be slow,
  nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.
 

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.
The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

As we approach the final two months in the calendar, most of us are probably caught a little off-guard by how fast the year has passed. Perhaps the inevitable question that comes to the forefront of the mind is — what have we accomplished in the past 12 months? Can we look back at the past year and feel proud of what we have achieved? If yes, then good on you! Sadly, for a fair number of people, the past year would probably look like a grim repeat of the previous year. We might feel like we’ve gone nowhere: still stuck in the same rut, same complaints about the boss/job/colleagues, working long hours but not having much to show for it. We’ve definitely chalked up our dues, but what have we accomplished?

While these are a few questions we may ask ourselves at the close of the year, on a bigger scale, it would also resemble the questions we would ask ourselves if we knew that “the time of [our] departure is at hand”. That is quite a daunting thought, for me at least. We have been given this gift of life here on earth by God. Seventy or eighty years down the line (God willing), we might look back and wonder what we have achieved during that time. Our achievements need not be glorious as what man decrees, they don’t need to be emblazoned across the sky or splashed across the media. Plaques, medals and certificates may all be well but it won’t do us much good on our day of judgment. In God’s eyes, a humble and faithful spirit of service is what He would probably value the most, as illustrated in today’s readings. There is no need to trumpet our own righteousness or deeds, God already knows. Our deeds can be as ‘small’ as feeding the homeless every week, or raising our children to be God-fearing people, or even overcoming negative habits or addictions that don’t serve us well. Or they can be as ‘big’ as being a good and upright leader. The question is, and we ask this in our own conscience, can we, like St Paul, have the right to say, “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? Can we truly say, hand to heart, that we lived a life that God had called for us, that we made a positive difference in the lives of others or even one person, or done something that was purposeful? Did we have the courage to answer God’s call when we perceived it, or did we run away? Did we keep the faith or did we falter?

Truly, it is not easy to answer the call of God. We will meet our fair share of doubts and hardships, as St Timothy and St Paul did, but we can be encouraged and encourage each other in the grace of God. As St Paul writes, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) And through battling through our hardships and emerging triumphant at the end will we have, and become, a testimony of faith and God’s love for us. Then only can we say that we are deserving of the crown that God has prepared for us in His heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: We pray Lord, for the courage to live the fulfilling lives that God has designed for us, so that we can stand on judgment day and proudly say that we competed well, we finished the race and kept the faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to our Heavenly Father, for the strength and grace that only He can provide to see us through any weather. We give thanks for this one precious life that we have been given. May we live it well in order to deserve it.

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