A new liturgical cycle begins with Septuagesima Sunday: the Easter cycle. During this liturgical season, we are going to follow humanity from its condition of slavery to its deliverance. This change is signified by the parting of the Red Sea, of which we will be reminded during the Easter Vigil. As Moses and his people, we are on our way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Our guide is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our manna is the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. We are on the way to recover what we have lost by our sins. And this way is long and hard.
Saint Paul gives us an image to help us to understand. The Super Bowl game today can help us too. Imagine a sportsman who wants to win a prize or a cup. He cannot win without serious and determined preparation and a strict discipline. For one day of glory, he may have to go through years of hard, grueling work. But when the day of his victory comes, the difficulty of the training is already far behind him. Saint Paul, this untiring athlete of Christ tells us that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. And for us, Christians, the goal is incomparably different than for a sportsman. The Apostle says again that every one that strives for the mastery, refrains himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.
It is good and laudable to run for a corruptible trophy, but it is incidental. Running for the incorruptible one is necessary. The fact is that many people are able to strive for an earthly trophy but they forget about the most important one. They are ready to suffer a thousand pains for one evanescent reward, and they do absolutely nothing for the eternal reward. The reason is that they forget the One who gives this reward.
Now look at a sportsman. What does he in do in order to win? He wakes up early, he imposes upon himself a strict diet, he runs and trains almost every day, he tries to develop his skills and he works on his mental acuity as well. He has a strict program that he must follow under the guidance of his coach. And he also has a doctor who monitors the care of his health and physical condition. So, a champion does not become a champion by chance. He may have some natural abilities, but if he doesn’t uses them well, he cannot become a champion.
Now, what about the heroes and champions of Faith, I mean the saints who are now in Heaven? How do you think that they became saints and arrived in Heaven? By chance? They woke up early every day so that they could glorify God at the beginning of the day as the Psalms say: For to thee will I pray: O Lord, in the morning thou shalt hear my voice. In the morning I will stand before thee. And I will sing thy strength: and will extol thy mercy in the morning. They imposed on themselves a strict diet by observing the precepts of the Church of abstinence and fasting, which was in the past much more strict than today. And they practiced the virtue of temperance which allowed them to castigate their bodies and to refrain from the sins of the flesh. They took enough time every day for their spiritual exercises: prayer, meditation and spiritual reading. This helped them to practice virtues and to live as good Christians.
The Saints had also a strict program that they followed during their life. A rule of life was certainly necessary for them to keep a right order in their lives and to be able to do everything at the appropriate time and place. Wisdom and prudence led toward a higher perfection. And finally, they had the best coach and the best doctor you can imagine, in fact the same person: Our Lord Jesus Christ, helped by His assistants coaches and medical team: the priests, who are spiritual directors and doctors of their souls.
God gave them natural abilities and supernatural graces, but they still had to use them well. So do we! We have an incorruptible crown to win. Let us start the training right now.
May Our Lady help us in his difficult task. She knows how long and hard the preparation is. She knows all the difficulties we have. But, more than ourselves, she wants us to be victorious. And she will be present on the podium when we receive our trophy. It would be a shame to miss this event, by far more important than the super bowl. So, let the best win tonight, and let us all win the eternal reward at the hour of our death.