Sunday, October 14
By Father Tom Hurley
It usually happens around mile marker six or seven. Going through my head with almost a fierce anger is: “Why did you do this again? Why are you so stupid and stubborn? You’ll never have enough in the tank to get all the way to the finish line!” It’s become an almost annual, self-inflicted frustration that I place upon myself by lacing up my shoes and heading to the starting corrals for the Chicago Marathon. With lingering aches and pains, a head full of questions and doubts about finishing the race, training that was mediocre at best, I perhaps went against my better judgment and decided to participate in the annual race. And yet, no matter how many times we’ve run the race and discovered that the “impossible” is actually possible, those lingering questions of doubt keep coming back with a vengeance in the early miles of the marathon. “I’ll never make it!”
Despite all of that, one of the things I actually enjoy most about the Chicago Marathon is not only seeing the crowds lining the streets in all the various neighborhoods from the north side to the south side, but I really get a kick out of the creative signs people hold up to encourage the runners: “Kick some asphalt!” “Worst parade ever!” “26.2 miles to beer!” And while the catchy posters, loud music, and revelry help to take my mind off of my persistent doubts of completing the race, there was one image this year that totally seized me and brought this whole experience to a fuller expression of meaning. In the final stretch of the race which is perhaps the most difficult, around mile 24, I saw something that I had only seen before with similar impact on ESPN documentaries. There, on south Michigan Avenue, I saw an older gentleman (perhaps 70 or better) pushing a full-size wheelchair with an adult male on board as his passenger. As I got closer to them on the street, I looked over and there on the side of the wheelchair was a simple sign that read: “Lucas’ First Marathon.” Though I have no idea who they are, I can only surmise that this was a father/son combination. It was a true honor to witness such a sacred moment as this. How this “senior” runner made it 26.2 miles while pushing a young adult person in a wheelchair is beyond my comprehension. How is this possible? Where does he get the strength and stamina to run, while pushing a wheelchair? And, by the way, he was moving at a pretty good clip… and this was at mile 24! Clearly, the answer is Love. With Love, all things are possible.
Even though it’s not in our readings for this Sunday, I can’t help but think of the words written by John: God is Love. And if that’s the case (and it is), then Jesus’ words in Mark’s gospel today ring even more true: All things are possible for God. For if God is Love, then all things are possible!
Jesus reminds his friends that we can’t do this on our own. Getting a camel through the eye of a needle is easier than us letting go of our pride, power, and prestige. Or when life has beat us down pretty good, getting back up can be a herculean effort. Getting beyond our fears, our doubts, and those questions about meaning, purpose, vocation, and where life is taking us is not something we can accomplish on our own. Even the psalmist laments in the face of iniquities and owning our mistakes: Lord, who can stand? But then the psalmist quickly realizes that only with God’s forgiveness is our standing possible for us again!
Today’s Gospel reminds yet again that we can’t do this journey of life on our own. We need each other as community and most especially we need the Presence of God. “All things are possible; even lifting up our broken bodies and souls, lifted up, freed from our burdens. Freed of the weights we cannot release, that we might see and welcome the One who loves us, who forgives us, who saves us.” (Melissa Nussbaum, Give Us This Day, October 14, 2018).
Many thanks for all of your support of our Crossroads Runners! We had a great group of about 70 people who ran the Chicago Marathon in support of our Social Outreach Kinship Ministries in North Lawndale and with our partners in the Aronin Center for Social Concerns. Running so we can help people land a job, find meaning, and get kids a good education are just a few of the great reasons to consider joining us in 2019!
Have a great week!
Father Tom Hurley