By Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, April 2, 2017
If anyone ever asked me, “What is one thing you’re really proud of in your life?” I know one of the responses I would definitely give is “running and finishing my first marathon!” I am only an average runner and since my days in the seminary I never really ran more than three or four miles. It was back in 2006 when I was standing in the vestibule of Old St. Pat’s that one of our members, Brendan Cournane, came up to me and invited me to consider running the Chicago Marathon. After some significant hesitation, I showed up on the lakefront path and began running with the group, training for my first marathon. When the day of the marathon finally arrived in October of 2006, I was extremely nervous and totally second guessing why I ever said yes to running a marathon. After the starter’s horn blew, thousands of people began the race and off we went. While the first half of the race went well, after I passed Old St. Pat’s and found myself out west near the United Center, I started running out of gas. My mind started playing tricks on me and began cursing internally, “Why did you ever do this? This was the dumbest idea I’ve ever come up with in my life!” And for the next couple of miles the only thing going through my head, “I think I’m going to stop and give up!” It was torturous. Should I stop or shouldn’t I? Somewhere around the Pilsen neighborhood, when the sign said “Mile 20,” my mood began to change and somehow I found some internal strength and a better attitude to keep going and the feet kicked into gear again. There was no better vision than rounding the corner at Roosevelt and Columbus Drive and seeing a big fat sign that read: FINISH! I made it! But to be honest, I didn’t think it was possible.
I couldn’t help but think about that experience of running my first marathon when I came across the first reading from Exodus this past Thursday for daily mass. It’s the more recognizable portion of the text when God instructs Moses to go back down the mountain because the people whom he had brought out of Egypt were beginning to make the molten calf and worshiping it! The people were starting to give up and they were irritated with God and Moses for leading them out of Egypt to this desolate place. It’s never ever any fun when we start giving up and, likewise, giving in! As we know, Moses has to serve as the mediator between God and the people and thankfully, by the end of the story, cooler heads prevail!
It’s interesting why the lectionary would have this reading when we are almost five weeks into the Lenten season. I’m guessing it might have something to do with Lent being a long journey and like many of us, we feel like throwing in the towel and giving up. All those things we talked about back on Ash Wednesday: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Sacrificing what we most enjoy and forgoing some of our greatest pleasures can get tougher the farther we go into Lent. Let’s face it, whether it’s Lent or some other commitment in our lives, we have all been down the dark and unfortunate road of wanting to give up and call it quits. It’s absolutely no fun starting a race that half way through it, you feel you cannot finish. It’s no fun starting a project and after looking at the scope of what needs to be accomplished, we start questioning whether we have the resources and stamina to bring it to fruition. It’s no fun trying to hit deadlines when we are so far behind, especially with term papers, tax returns, and church bulletin articles!
Like Moses who served as the reconciler, this time of Lent encourages us to be attentive to the internal voice of the Spirit who’s saying to us, “Just a little bit further and you’ll be at Easter. Hold on. Don’t give up. Pace yourself. Believe in yourself. You got this. Think good thoughts. Peace over violence.”
This week ahead, join us for a Lent Reconciliation service this Wednesday April 5 at 7 pm. It’s a great way to clear our hearts and heads. And then Friday April 7 is our Fish Fry in Hughes Hall. I hope to see you!
Father Tom Hurley
Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram: