“The reward is not for those that begin, but those that bring to an end….To endure in Christ, is to abide in His faith.” –From Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol 5.: St. Thomas Aquinas,”pg 108. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
This is a very humbling reminder, especially for those of us who may just be starting out in the faith. We have a long way to go. Just because God has granted grace for us to begin (which we ought to be continually grateful for!) does not guarantee that we will finish the race. We must continue to use the graces given to us if we are to gain the reward. This ties in with the Epistle for today’s Holy Mass, for the 1st Sunday in Lent (2 Corinthians 6: 1-10). St. Paul warns, right off the bat: “And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1, DRA). We cannot expect to run a marathon through, all the way to the end, if we do not make use of water, food, rest, exercise, and other bodily nourishments. It is the same with the spiritual life. We cannot expect to receive the reward if we neglect the use of God’s graces, which He in His goodness bestows upon us each day. How silly is it, to hope for the trophy at the end without employing the very means of getting it! If we cannot even stand without God’s grace, what hope have we of running for the prize AND persevering without His help?
No, we must ‘endure in Christ’, we must abide in the faith He has given us. This means persevering. The word ‘endure,’ in the English language, typically has a negative connotation. The other words associated with it in the thesaurus include ‘suffer’ and ‘undergo.’ This tells us that to endure does not mean simply to carry on, but to accept all that comes with carrying on, come what may. It means not abandoning, but rather embracing, suffering, all ‘in Christ,’ for love of Him, in union with Him. This is how we ‘abide in His faith,’ to ‘abide’ meaning to ‘dwell in’ or ‘remain.’ In a sense, then, we must make a home of our beginnings, a home of the faith we have been led to, embracing and using all that God sees fit to give us, enduring in Christ so that we may attain the reward reserved for ‘those that bring to an end.’ Let us pray for this patience and perseverance, especially in the pursuit of detachment from this world during the Lenten season!