Tomorrow is the big day around here, although today has some highlights of its own for the city: pop star Jewel is singing at Millennium Park tonight (there will probably be more than the 25,000 who came in for Riccardo Muti and the CSO!); at any rate, the city is teaming with families. And runners. Even teams of elite runners, like the big group from Mexico I passed on my way to Mass at the Cathedral. Their star runners were wearing matching race attire, but the whole group was dressed for a trial run. A Polish team showed up at the Bean when I was there briefly this afternoon. And every time I pass a group on the sidewalk, they seem to be speaking a different language. All this, as Paul would say, "for a crown of leaves that withers" (and a finisher's medal that may or may not corrode).
I'll be thinking of that tomorrow morning when I take the L to Mt Carmel to sing at the 11:00 Mass. I know from previous Marathon Sundays that the trains will be packed with runners' families (all clutching posters or balloons), heading to the next rendezvous to shout their encouragement. This race is the culmination of a lot of work! Hard work and perseverance. (Scary words!)
I've never had the ambition to run a marathon (I can hardly run across the street!), but I can learn something from those runners. You would think that in religious life, hard work and perseverance (in a word, commitment) would be a given, but human nature is ingenious in finding ways to--if not avoid, at least compromise in all three. It can be so easy to focus time and effort on a lesser goal than the one at hand (or the one assigned, or the one that really needs doing), rationalizing that at least I'm getting something good done. (Like, at least I got my blog post in for the day, even if the kitchen is still calling my name right now...) St. Paul comes again, saying, "Run so as to win!"
The Focus missionaries who are with us this weekend are a great example of what Paul is talking about. In their ministry, these young adults mentor college students, helping them to become Catholic leaders themselves. They provide formation in bible study, prayer and general Catholic virtue, and they give the students a threefold checklist for their collegiate life: they are to pursue chastity, sobriety and excellence. There's no room for slacking off: you need to do your personal best.
Even if it takes hard work. And perseverance!