24 February 2008

What Is This Race Which We Run?

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Using the propers for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for Septuagesima Sunday.

St. Paul plainly tells us that we are running a race. And he urges us not simply to run, but to run that you may obtain the prize. The holy Apostle sets the goal before us. We are running to win. The prize has been set before us; it is in clear view. Now we must attain that which has been promised. Now we may lay hold on the treasure that has been stored up for us. And with this goal in mind, we run not with uncertainty, not as someone just pounding the pavement and going through the motions. Rather, we should run so that, in the end, we stand with those who have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.

But what is this race which we run? What is the course? And what is the point?

Fear propels most runners. They run to stay healthy, to prolong life, to avoid death. Pride propels a few. They run for the glory, for the accolades and fame. Still fewer run for the sheer joy of running. They run because they enjoy the atmosphere, and get caught up in the act. For all three—the afraid, the proud, and the lovers—for all three, the race is this world. They run the human race. That is to say, they run only with this life in mind: to get the most they can from the time they have, and to experience all that the world offers. They afraid fear missing out. The proud want to be remembered in the record books. And the lovers of this world get caught up in the act of living, in taking it all in, in living life to its fullest.

But that is not our race. For this world does not offer the prize that we seek. This world offers only disappointment and death. Its promises fade or are broken. And getting caught up in this world’s living means getting caught up in its march to death. For in the end, this world’s prize may be monuments for a few and satisfaction for some, but the grave for all.

Yet we run not because of fear or pride or love of this world.We run to obtain the prize. Which means that we run so that we might lay hold on eternal life, unto which we have been called.

The Spirit has sealed us as His own in Holy Chrismation so that we run our race not in vainly, not beating the air worthlessly, but so that we may obtain an incorruptible prize, undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. And His goal for us is not that we live life to the fullest, but so that we live life in His fullness.

Read the full sermon here.

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