It is not that I have reached it yet or already have finished my course; but I am racing to grasp the prize if possible since I I have been grasped by Christ. Brothers, I do no think of myself as having reached the finish line. I give no thought to what lies behind, but push on to what is ahead, my entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me — life on high in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are spiritually mature must have this attitude. If you see it another way, God will clarify the difficulty for you. It is important that we continue on course no matter what stages we have reached.
Whenever I have thought of this Scripture in the past, I have thought of it not as a metaphor for the Christian walk or run, as the case may be here. Instead, I have thought of it literally in terms of running.
So we as runners are not to think we already have crossed the finish line or expended our energy, in other words. We are not to think either of past performances, but think of future performances.
Today, though, I am seeing this Scripture as a little bit of both. This morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed to run. My wife said to me that if I developed a routine, it would become easier. “It is important that we continue on course no matter what stages we have reached.”
What is it toward which I”m running? To grasp the prize? Which is? That to which God me: life on high in Christ Jesus. Is Paul referring to death here or heaven or the afterlife? I don’t think so. I think he means life on high is attainable now.
So in my running it is that toward which I should be reaching: life on high. That runner’s high that doesn’t fade. If we are mature, we must have this attitude, Paul says, and if we see it another way, God will clarify the difficulty fo ryou. At first, I thought in his saying that, Paul was being a little humorous, as if to say, “If you see it another, God will beat you up side the head with a 2-by-4. However, I now think that the key word here is “clarify.” God will make us see the difficulty that arises from not keeping our eyes on our goal: life on high in Christ Jesus.
So also in terms of my running. I have a goal to reach the finish line of the Bald Eagle Mountain Megatransect. Not to win it obviously, but to finish it, running (in this case, sometimes walking, sometimes hiking, sometimes crawling) toward the prize of the high of life.
So to bring it full circle, God has shown what happens if I don’t keep my eyes on the prize — the difficulty of not getting up mornings and developing a routine. I won’t reach that life on high physically, mentally and spiritually unless I keep my eyes on that goal, continuing on course no matter my physical, mental and spirtual maturity.
Lord, help me to have this attitude. Amen.
Note: Of course, after writing this, I now see a different translation on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops than the one I had from the Liturgy of the Hours (1970 translation):
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Let us, then, who are “perfectly mature” adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you.Only, with regard to what we have attained, continue on the same course.
With the Scripture worded this way, I could write another whole reflection. Regardless, we have to “Run for the Prize,” as sung by Petra: