Today’s first Mass reading is a passage from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy that always moves me. Paul realizes he is “the time of [his] departure is at hand.” Looking back at his life, he writes: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
Since I am always so affected by those words, I spent some time reflecting on what Paul is saying in his letter. What would it take to be able to say, as does Paul, “I have competed well”?
I think the words can mean a lot of different things, depending on the circumstances. Of course we’d all like to be able to say at the end of the day that through our words and deeds we accomplished big things, changed the world in a major way, maybe moved a few mountains. And sometimes we do accomplish big things. Other times, our best efforts may produce small results. The circumstances in which we find ourselves mean that we have little show for our efforts.
All of that says that we can not necessarily fairly evalute our discipleship based on visible results. The relevent question is only whether we acted true to our faith. Whether we followed the course of Christ, bearing witness to Christ and being his love in the world as best as we could. If we do that, then, at the end of the day we can say, as did Paul, “I have competed well…I have kept the faith.”