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In today’s Second Reading, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to persevere in our life of faith, no matter what difficulties we face. “ With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started.” The writer says I want you to finish what has been started in you.

A person I know says, “I like to run. I’m not fast, but I enjoy running. But I suppose it’s the finishing that really makes the difference.  The elite runners were crossing the finish line when I was about halfway through the course.  They had about two hours to enjoy refreshments and rest, while I still had kilometres of one foot in front of the other to reach my goal and was wondering if I would really make it. But the beauty of the event is that for many of us, just finishing the race is the accomplishment, the goal.”

The author of the letter to the Hebrews asks us a question: Will we finish the race that is our life with faith? Will we persevere?  The race is hard. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us, if we follow him, if we stand up for what is right, we will experience conflict.

The writer of Hebrews gives advice about how to finish the race. Recall who surrounds us. Remove what weighs down on us. Remember who goes before us.

 Recall who surrounds us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” The writer wants us to picture ourselves as athletes in an arena. As we strive toward our goal, to finish with faith, in peace and holiness, we run surrounded by people, people who have demonstrated faith — faith that persevered, people who by the grace of God overcame great obstacles and finished the race.  

A witness is someone who has gone through something themselves. We have witnesses cheering us on, not just spectators, people who have gone through what we struggle with, people whose testimonies of the strength God gave them can, in turn, give us strength and courage.

The writer tells us also to remove what weighs down on us.   What attitudes and actions, what past behaviour and present entanglements weigh us down?  We can set those weights down. God is ready to take them from us. God is ready to forgive and heal whatever we let get between us and God, whatever has come between us and other people, whatever wrongs we do to ourselves.

Our writer also tells us to rely on the strength within us, to “ keep running steadily in the race we have started. .” When the going gets tough, when the road is difficult, when every stretch of the road seems like another steep hill to climb, we can rely on  spiritual resources we develop in gathering with other Christians, in hearing and reading God’s word, in participating in the sacramental life of the church.

Most important of all, remember who goes before us.  We can look “to Jesus who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection:, who for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne.”

We can and will finish the race strong in faith if we look to Jesus, if we keep our eyes focused on him, not being distracted by other things along the way that can cause us to lose our direction or footing and stumble.
In the race of our life, we have people cheering us on. We have someone willing to take on our burdens. We have a guide who leads us and will not leave us.  Let us keep running until the prize is ours and we hear God say to us, “Well done!”

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