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An Imperishable Crown

Homily for Friday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

I must admit that the imagery that St. Paul uses in today’s reading has never really impressed me. I contracted a mild case of polio when I was an infant which has had multiple physical effects throughout my life. I can remember reading these words in my daily missal as a young boy and thinking to myself, “If there is one thing I am not, it is an athlete.” I have never been able to run, to hit a ball, or to jump a hurdle. In the seminary we were required to play every sport. We started with baseball in August and September, switched to football in October and November, went inside and played basketball and volleyball in December, January and February, and then played softball in the spring. The only thing I enjoyed was when a small number of us were assigned to the six bowling alleys that were under the gymnasium.

So when St. Paul asks us run so as to win, I found myself saying “I wish.” Though my father was a Golden Gloves boxer, I never thought of climbing into a boxing ring to exchange blows with someone. I can truthfully say that I was never blind to my own weaknesses. They were always prominently on display.

However, despite the fact that the imagery in today’s readings does not really feel comfortable, I am aware of the fact that example is the most powerful sermon. So I feel more comfortable with the athletic imagery that is found in the Letter to the Hebrews where we are exhorted to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is standing at the finish line of the race course, ready to embrace us when we finish the race. So I read these images thinking of the contestants in the Special Olympics who are all embraced by someone at the end of the race.

So as we approach the Eucharist today, we pray for the grace to trust Jesus and to let him show us how best to run this race. For the prize that awaits each of us is an imperishable crown.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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