THIS process of peacemaking may be likened to a marathon race.
The marathon is a long-distance race wherein long-term strategy, stamina, and persistence win out over speed and short cuts, and reaching the finish line belongs to those who just keep at it. A different kind of preparation and training, as well as breathing technique, is needed in a marathon. In many respects, in a marathon the journey is the destination.
Let me suggest five elements of a marathon: starting point; companions; signposts and marshals; refreshment; and destination. These correspond to our strategy of pastoral accompaniment:
…A refuge, sanctuary, or space where people come alongside in a journey together towards integrity for the common good.
It is a trust relationship growing in a journey of faith, hope, and love, a call to all the faithful, involving discipline and special skills.
Marathon runners gather at a particular starting point. This designated area is known to all the runners. They have to begin here in order to be part of the race.
We begin our efforts for peace with the recognition, on the one hand, of man’s broken condition and need for God and, on the other, God who is both powerful and merciful. The capacity to exchange places, or empathy, is rooted in the incarnation which finds its apex in Jesus’ death on the cross: God exchanges places with sinful man.
Exchanging places allows people from various sectors and backgrounds to come alongside together in the journey towards integrity for the common good. The journey towards a transformed nation does not begin with persons of integrity but persons moving towards integrity and manifesting concrete indicators of this direction. This insight corresponds to the need to provide “a refuge, sanctuary, or space where people come alongside in a journey together towards integrity for the common good.”
Everything is grace and our capacity to take the first step is already a gift from God. There is no room for self righteousness and finger pointing. No room also for complacency and sloth.
What is crucial in a marathon is that runners are moving in the right direction. This fundamental option allows people to make mistakes and even to fall short of the mark as long as they are willing to start over again or are moving towards integrity for the common good.
The church is called to be open to working with individuals and groups who show concrete indicators that they are undertaking the journey towards integrity for the common good.
No one runs the marathon alone. Even those who finish last are part of the group, each one running at his or her pace.
We recognize that we are all in this together, as part of the problem and part of the solution. This is why in the partnership with and outreach to the PNP the motto is: “Underneath the uniform and the sotana are the same human beings, created in God’s image and likeness, broken by sin, and needing God and each other in the journey towards wholeness.” This is why Benedict XVI calls the Church to “provide pastoral accompaniment to a new generation of Catholics working in politics.”
Signposts are visible markers – or indicators – that allow runners, their companions, and marshals to gauge where they are at and to move on. The formation of conscience and the process of conversion demand visible fruits that provide indicators of transformation; words and good intentions are not enough. (cf. Luke 3:7-14).
Marshals are our accountable partners and shepherds who keep a watchful eye over the run/race. They are there at critical points when crucial decisions are to be made, i.e. in the crossroads of the race routes where there is probability of succumbing to shortcuts or of taking the easy way out. These temptations take us off the right direction and will most likely cost us disqualification. The marshals are our accountable partners at the crossroads directing us to the right route and seeing to it that we do it right to arrive right.
Faith-impelled social transformation calls for “marshals” who stand apart from the runners but, at the same time, are in the routes and crossroads. They share the same space as the runners yet have a different objective. These advocates raise questions, clarify, affirm, encourage, and rebuke, if need be. They propose, never impose. They live by the spirit of caritas in veritate (“love in truth”).
Water and food stations are strategically located every 2.5 kms from the starting point to the finish line. Water and runners’ food are vital requirements to finish the race. With no refueling we will never reach the finish line alive, or we will never reach the finish line at all.
We need to replace fluids and electrolytes that are shed off when we run and perspire. Non-replacement could be fatal.
Daily guided and prayerful reading of Sacred Scriptures, daily personal and communal prayers, regular confessions, our Sunday masses and services, our spiritual nourishment by way of receiving the body of Christ in communion, our regular fellowship with fellow believers, etc. – all these correspond to the vital refreshment for replacement and refueling that should be made available to marathoners and of which they avail.
Missing these implements will definitely cost us our spiritual lives, hence our inability to arrive and finish the race of our life.
The finish line is the gate to heaven for every runner who struggles to finish the race, despite all the odds.
This is the endpoint that began with the decision to run the race. The end begins with this end in view. It starts with the decision to religiously follow a training schedule, a diet, a sleeping schedule and a mind setting or praying schedule which must end in an anchoring that will provide the necessary focus to stick with the resolve to run and finish the race.
The 42.195 grueling kilometers, cramps, blisters, the ever present temptation to just stop running or just quit, the lingering questions “what for”, “why go through such hardship” – all these are defeated by focus and the desire to finish and arrive at the destination, the blissful and peaceful taste of victory and the eternal reward of finally having the indelible mark of a “marathoner” finally resolves it all.
Running the race is definitely worth everything because such is the essence of one’s being. To finish the race is to be called to life with and for GOD and ending at the destination which is a PEACEFUL, blissful eternal fellowship with GOD.