1st July, 2012 Readings: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“On your marks…”
Almost instantly, all eight athletes fell to their knees and pressed their fingers down onto the blazing hot rubber as they carefully planted their feet on the two starting blocks. They had all done this at least a hundred times each. They had all rehearsed this moment in their heads over and over. And now, it was finally here.
All eyes were fixed on the athlete with the shiny golden “4” on the side of her thigh. I noticed the three huge letters, USA, plastered across her chest, as she reached for the crucifix hanging from her neck and raised it to her lips before setting it back down. Now, she was ready.
“Get set…” –BANG-
And they were off, with the favourite in lane four leaping to quick start ahead of the other athletes. By the time she reached the last 30m, her lead was unquestionably uncontested as she sailed to an easy finish in first place.
Crashing to the ground, half in exhaustion and half in relief, she shut her eyes, clasped her hands together and offered a prayer of thanksgiving up to God before brandishing the glorious flag of red, white and blue and joining in the celebrations.
Okay so maybe we aren’t all Olympic athletes. But one has much to learn from a world-class athlete who continues to place her trust in the Lord even though she practically had the gold in the bag before even stepping out onto the track.
In this week’s gospel, Jesus performs one of his many miracles, healing first a sick woman, and then a man’s dying daughter. But these miracles didn’t happen out of magic or supernatural occurrences, they happened because of one crucial element in the hearts of both the woman and the man: faith – the trust and belief that Jesus had the power to restore these people to full health.
It was easy for them both to give up all hope and just pass the situation off as being completely hopeless, resigning themselves to death and despair. In a similar way, the athlete could have taken it for granted that she would win, relying solely on her own strength and maybe even falling into complacency. But today’s gospel tells us how crucial it is for us to rely on the grace and healing power of God in our trials and challenges, no matter how promising or absolutely desolate the situation may seem.
How often do we think of giving up when we face a difficult question or a tough life decision? How often do we choose to rely only on our own human strength, neglecting to realise that God is constantly holding out his hand to us, waiting to walk this road with us?
Personally, I find it difficult to place my faith in God when facing trials or difficulties. I often feel like I don’t need God, telling myself that I can handle my problems on my own and letting my own thought and rationality get in the way of God’s soft promptings. But it’s one thing to be confident and another thing to realise that human strength alone is simply not enough to get by. We cannot face these challenges alone. And today God tells us that we DON’T have to face these challenges alone, for He is there to carry us through.
God works through the little things – our friends giving us advice or lending us a listening ear, our parents who look out for us and care for us unconditionally, even our teachers who go out of their way to help us to understand concepts and issues. What’s left for us is to be open to that voice of concern or offer of help that comes our way. Only then are we truly letting God work in our lives.
But wait. What about the other athletes who religiously offer their races up to God, yet do not attain that same good result as our American champion? Well, let’s just say God has a plan for each of us. Some athletes rejoice in the glorious opportunity to represent ones nation, others jump for joy on hitting a new personal best timing in the games; these small successes are God’s little ways of telling us that the faith we put in him is not neglected. Although sometimes these small successes may not seem like much – in fact sometimes they might be far from what we hope to achieve – today I challenge you to cling to this promise that God gives to us and be patient for the Lord works not in our time but His, and “strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord”.