At Mass this week we have been treated to selections from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy. Today, for example, we heard the famous passage from chapter three regarding the inspiration of Sacred Scripture: “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching . . .” such that believers may be “equipped for every good work.”
As a father and catechist, I especially appreciate the preceding verse, which says ”from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Given the special relationship between Saints Paul and Timothy, as well as the fact that St. Paul’s life and ministry are nearing their completion, St. Paul continually encourages Timothy–and all of us–to persevere in the faith. In today’s reading, for instance, we are exhorted to “remain faithful to what [we] have learned and believed.”
Tomorrow’s reading continues this theme, as St. Paul urges Timothy to be persistent in proclaiming the truth. Then St. Paul adds this personal note:
“For I am already being poured out as a libation [meaning that he sees his entire life as an offering to God], and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me . . .”
Athletics provides many vivid analogies for understanding and teaching the faith. This wasn’t lost on St. Paul, who frequently used expressions such as “running the race,” “disciplining his body,” “winning,” and “shadowboxing” to communicate sublime spiritual truths. On another occasion he wrote to Timothy: “Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).
As baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, the game ain’t over till it’s over. I think St. Paul is making a similar point regarding our lives as Christians. May we, when our “playing days” as Christians in the world come to a close, be able to look back and say, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
For more on the connection between sports and the Catholic faith, I encourage readers to visit www.catholicathletesforchrist.com.