Reflecting on 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
It’s frustrating not to know more about the world of Jesus and St. Paul. But there is a clue in the second reading today, an actual insider’s joke from St. Paul (or one of his disciples) to the church headed by Timothy in Ephesus.
“I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. And from now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me.” Hmm. Why does he use the image of an athlete competing in a race, finishing it and wearing the crown? Could it be that Paul, from his chains, is sending along a little joke about the crazy man on the throne, the dreaded Emperor Nero, the one who would be his executioner? I think so.
By the time this letter was written the whole Roman Empire was laughing at Nero because, at the Olympics in the year 67, he actually bribed the judges to let him compete. He entered himself in six races and, guess what, won every one of them (no competitors allowed). And when he fell off his chariot in the race against himself, he still won and got to wear the victor’s wreath and process around the stadium to thunderous applause-on-demand.
Thanks, St. Paul. All these millennia later, we still get the message. Unlike Nero, we’ll run the real race and we’ll finish it. We’ll keep the faith. And at the finish line, with our last breaths, we will reach for Him who has forgiven us. And the heavens will rejoice that another set of sinners has been lifted onto the Winner’s Podium, to be crowned on high with eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Special thanks to my friend Thomas Smith for the background information given in this column.
Sharing God’s Word at Home:
How do you feel you are doing in “running the race” of faithfulness to your baptismal vows?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).