Crossing the finish line: Weekly Message for 05-24-2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

In two days (or five, depending on whether your diocese celebrates it on Thursday or Sunday) the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension: Our Lord reaching the finish line. Sacred Scripture recounts that after forty days of being with the disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus on the Solemnity of the Ascension crosses into Heaven to take His place at the Father’s right hand, as the prophecies foretold for the Messiah. The Father crowned him with the glory he merited by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and in turn, he is eternally asking the Father for each of us–by name–to receive the graces we need to join him in eternity.

The disciples thought this was the end of the story. Every Jew in those days knew the Messiah was supposed to clean house and establish a kingdom that would last forever, which is why they asked Jesus right before his departure if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. We can think the same thing. Something’s not quite right with the world. There is despair and decay and violence, and sometimes it seems evil is winning. We want God to come and clean house. We even expect it. Which is why we must remember Jesus’ answer: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7). We can’t blame them. We all want results and tidy endings. They were still in such shock that the angels had to come and tell them, “why do you stand looking into Heaven?” (Acts 1:11).

We’re often so guilty of the same thing because we don’t realize that Christ reaching the finish line doesn’t mean that the race is finished: we still must cross the finish line. Jesus is just the first runner across. We’re all in a race like an open marathon. Some run it, some walk it, some make it a family outing, but everyone is heading for the finish line. There are runners who train all year long, who’ve been running morning after morning, training for the hardest race of their life, striving to be the first across the finish line. In the race of life, these runners are the saints, who suffered and sacrificed and beat their bodies into submission with their eyes fixed on the eternal prize. We all want to have that glory of blowing through the finish line tape. 

But we also know that there are those who have been longing for it, and at the end—battered, cramped, and wheezing—just manage to drag themselves across. In this race, getting across the finish line is what counts. The common denominator for all of us is that we must set our sights on the finish line and keep moving. We shouldn’t wait for angels to come and ask us why we are just standing around.

As we prepare over these next twelve days for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on us on Pentecost Sunday, let’s ask the Spirit to show us that one thing in our lives that is an obstacle to uniting ourselves more closely to God. We may need a second wind, or we may need to be pointed back in the right direction.

May the Holy Spirit help you pick up the pace in order to blow through the only finish line that really matters: eternity.

Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Author of Maximizing the Mass

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