SAINT PAUL OFTEN compared our spiritual journey to a marathon. For instance, in First Corinthians, he wrote: “Do you not realise that all the runners in the stadium take part in the race but only one of them gets the prize? Run like that — to win.
Every athlete concentrates completely on training, and this is to win a wreath that will wither, whereas ours will never wither.” The apostle’s point is simple: Put the same effort into your spiritual life that an athlete puts into achieving a world record.
What does this mean in practice? It means many things. Just as a marathon runner tries to perfect many things — even choosing the proper shoes — a Christian needs to work on many things.
Let me suggest one of those many. When we were watching the famous race a few days ago, we noticed the pacesetters, didn’t we? Well, in the spiritual life, we need something similar. We cannot go it alone.
It’s quite popular these days for people in business to hire a mentor. Several best-selling books have been written by “super-mentors”. These are mentors who give advice to other mentors about how to give advice.
Listen to what one of the wise men of our times wrote: “You would not build a good house for your life here on earth without an architect. How then, without someone to guide you, can you hope to build the house of a holy life, which you will need for your eternity in heaven?”
In Saint Luke’s gospel we find Jesus complaining to his disciples that the “children of this world” are more prudent than the “children of light”.
People whose only goal is money and more money spend sleepless nights looking for ways to get that money. As Jesus notes, they are prudent. They seek advice. They hire consultants. Jesus wants us to put that kind of effort into seeking sanctity.
I realise that the practice of confession is not popular among some Christians. But, really, it is just common sense that people should have someone to turn to — a leader in the Church called by Christ to guide other Christians along their path to heaven.
Look at marathon runners with their pacesetters or business executives with their mentors. I don’t mean to reduce spiritual life to a worldly affair. In the end, the Holy Spirit is the one who must guide us. But the Spirit works through Christ’s disciples.
That is why Jesus told Peter: “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.”