Have you ever trained for a 5k, a 10 mile, a triathlon or even a half or full marathon?
Marathoners, triathaloners, and all the other "oners", spend time training on their own throughout the year or maybe even with a partner or small group. And then, the big day arrives. Everyone converges onto the city streets, ready to put their training and practice to the ultimate test.
That's what Lent is about.
Throughout the year, we all strive to become holier and closer to Christ. Lent, like a big community road race, is the time when all the Catholics and Christians in the whole world join together to put our souls to the test and achieve a common goal.
And what is our goal?
To win the crown of Christ's Glory.
St. Paul says it best,
I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. (1 Corinthians 9:22 - 25)
Unlike the example of the street races, Lent is not a competition.
It's not about proving to others how holy we are or how many sacrifices we're offering, or even how many extra good deeds we're doing.
There is no stopwatch keeping track of how "fast" we can pray our rosaries or chaplets. (Although that would be fun to hear!)
In fact, it may be more accurate to use the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, using the tortoise as a reminder that "slow and steady" wins the race.
If you've ever run a road race or participated in any other similar group community event, you know that what makes these so fun is the people, the community. The ones who are running along beside you - or even way ahead of you - and the ones cheering you on along the sidelines.
It would be hard to keep going were it not for the others in the race with us, and it would be easy to become discouraged, even quit, were it not for the cheers, shouts, and even the occasional bullhorn of encouragement from the supporters.
This is what Lent is about, and this is what the Church is about.
We are a community of believers, a family of God's children. Individually, we each "run the good race" on our way to God; together, we will all win the imperishable crown of Christ’s Glory.
And maybe, at the end of Lent on Easter Sunday, we’ll all get "40.0" stickers to proudly stick on the back of our vans.
Copyright 2015, Erika Marie
Photo Credit: Andrew Campbell, Beachy Head Marathon 2014. Photo adapted by Erika Marie.