Run the Race Set Before You

It was another picturesque Marathon Monday in Boston, albeit a bit too warm of a spring day for most runners, I think. Being apart of this historic city makes me proud on so many levels – the diversity, history, culture and faith traditions are deep and lasting. They helped define this great nation where we are privileged to live as free citizens.

On this particular day, I love to watch and read about the heroic individuals who train for days, months and years – for the chance to run this storied race, the oldest in America. One of my favorite stories this year was that of Katherine Switzer, who entered the race as K.V. Switzer 50 years ago in order to get an official number. As a woman, she was not eligible to run back in 1967. Determination and strength were the ingredients which led her to become the first female to finish an all male race, despite attempts from race officials to pull her off the course. Today, she ran the race again after 50 years, with hope to inspire girls around the world who don’t have the freedoms we have been blessed with in this great country! “I run to give girls around the world opportunities – girls who can’t drive, go to school and do all the things that we can do.”

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There are so many other heroic stories of runners which inspire me to rise up and try to be my best self. Runners who survived the heinous marathon bombings and whose courage and fortitude have led them back to run again. Heroic families who have lost loved ones in the bombings, whose faith and hope in the goodness of humanity have led them back to the finish line to cheer on hundreds of athletes chasing their own marathon dreams. Those who blaze a trail like Katherine Switzer, survivors and new runners in todays race – these are ordinary hero’s in our midst who have said yes to God and are running the race set before them in this life. What an inspiration to witness their courage, faith and strength.

When I ponder the phrase “running the race set before us in this life” a favorite verse from scripture comes to mind. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

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We had the privilege of being together as a family over the Easter weekend with my beautiful dad on Cape Cod. It was the first Easter without our beloved mom, so we tried very hard to endure this trial of loss and find hope and joy in our love for one another. This is the race that has been set before our family and we are called to endure it with hope and the promise of new life for mom in heaven. Over the Easter Triduum, we accompanied our Lord from His agony in the garden on Holy Thursday, to his death on the cross on Good Friday.  As a family we were all feeling quite somber on Friday after a poignant Living Stations of the Cross by the Christ the King Youth Group. One could feel the despair of Jesus’ mother as she held the lifeless body of her son in her arms.  It was for us and thousands of others, a sorrowful day.

But Good Friday is not the end of the story. As our family gathered for the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, the darkness of the church was illuminated by a single Easter candle which in turn brightened the entire sanctuary as each person’s candle was lit, one by one. Suddenly the light of Christ was present in our hearts and hope was renewed. After the darkness of Good Friday, comes the light of Easter. Christ is Risen! But this hope, Jesus taught, comes from enduring the suffering and pain in our lives – it comes from a willingness to pick up our own crosses each day with faith. Easter reminds us that we don’t have to be afraid when times are tough, our Lord is close and will never abandon any of His children. Easter promises us that He lives and Love wins – always!

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The survivors of the marathon bombing and their families return each year because hate and anger did not win – the bombers did not win. Hope, light and faith in God always win despite the pain and suffering along the way.  This does not mean there won’t be setbacks and tears, but it does mean that our good Lord will always accompany us along the long, lonely journey. My beautiful mother taught me that. Without pain and suffering, there can be no hope and joy for tomorrow. The key is not to get stuck in the hatred and suffering of difficult times. God is not there – remember, Good Friday is not the end of the story. Our Lord loves us so much that he willingly died on the cross for all of us – every person of every faith and background.

Leaving the Cape tonight was difficult. Emma, Andrew, Papa and I took a long beach walk. We spoke of Nona and days gone by. We picked shells and sea glass and talked about how much she would have loved the beauty of this day with the sun reflecting off the blue, sparkling ocean. As we turned to leave the beach, we gave thanks for the gift of her life and agreed that she ran the race set before her with endurance, courage, faith, optimism and gentleness. Nona possessed so many of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. One can really know a person by these fruits of the Spirit and Nona was a woman many knew by her genuine gift of self, love for others and deep faith. Like those unfairly affected by the marathon bombing, Nona was unfairly affected by cancer. But she didn’t live in darkness or negativity. She chose to live in the light like those at the finish line today. She ran the race God placed before her with grace and love and thus was rewarded with eternal glory at her finish line.  May we follow her heroic example and run the race God has placed before us with the same endurance, courage, faith and hope, despite the struggles and setbacks we may encounter along the way. Happy Easter!

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