“Let us… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb 12:1-2).

By Fabio Ciardi and Gabriella Fallacara

The life of Christians, to whom the letter to the Hebrews is addressed, is often marked by trials and sufferings. At times we are tempted to become discouraged and say, “Why not choose an easier way? Why not give up?”
The author of this writing invites us, instead, to continue on the road we have undertaken: it is difficult and costly, but it is the way of the Gospel and that way leads to fullness of life. In fact, he urges Christians to run and to stay on course even when they feel the weight of suffering.
We who decide to follow Jesus must do as every athlete does—in order to reach the goal, we need to have perseverance, that is, stamina, the capacity to stay the course, which comes from the conviction that God is with us and from our determination to make it.
Above all, we are asked to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, who forged the way for us and is our guide. Jesus on the cross, especially when he felt abandoned by the Father, is the model of courage, of perseverance, of endurance: he remained steadfast when he was tested and he even abandoned himself into the hands of that God whom he felt had abandoned him (see Lk 23:46; Mk 15:34).

“Let us… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

Chiara Lubich often speaks of how Jesus courageously faced the greatest of trials without giving up: he is the best example of how to run our race, for how to overcome our trials. Each one of our sufferings or trials in life has already been taken on by Jesus in his abandonment on the cross.
Let’s allow Chiara herself to show us how to keep our eyes fixed on him.
“Are we overcome by fear? Didn’t Jesus on the cross in his abandonment appear to be overcome with the fear that the Father may have forgotten him?”
 When we are overwhelmed by dejection and discouragement, we can still look to Jesus who in that moment “seems to be immersed in the impression that in his divine passion he lacks the Father’s comfort and appears to be losing the courage to endure his terrible trial to the end…. Do circumstances cause us to feel disoriented? In his tremendous suffering, Jesus seems to not understand what is happening to him since he cries “Why?” … And when we are surprised by delusion, or wounded by a trauma, or by an unforeseen misfortune, or by a sickness or an absurd situation, we can always recall the suffering of Jesus forsaken who personally took on all these trials and thousands more.”
 He is beside us in every difficulty, ready to share in our every suffering.

“Let us… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

 How then should we live this Word? Let’s look at Jesus, Chiara says, and “let’s get used to calling him by name in the various trials of our life. We will call him: Jesus forsaken-loneliness, Jesus forsaken-doubt, Jesus forsaken-hurt, Jesus forsaken-trial, Jesus forsaken-desolation, and so forth.
 And by calling him by name, he will see that he is discovered and recognized under every suffering, and will respond to us with more love; by embracing him he will become our peace, our comfort, courage, stability, our health and our victory. He will be the explanation and the solution for everything.”

“Let us… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

 This is how it was for Louise who, years ago, found a flyer with the commentary on this Word of Life. She herself tells us about it: “The news came unexpectedly: my first son, who was twenty-nine years old, was in a traffic accident and had been seriously injured. I ran to the hospital with my heart in my throat. My son was there, unable to move and with a blank look in his eyes. I felt desperate. In the anguishing days of waiting that followed, I stopped by the hospital chapel. There I found the Word of Life which invited me to keep my eyes on Jesus forsaken. I read it over with great attention. Yes, I told myself, it really speaks about my trial…. Going back to the intensive care unit that was so devoid of hope, it no longer seemed like martyrdom to me; it now connected me to the love of God. And I was able, while holding my son’s hand, to pray for him as he was leaving me. He did pass away, and yet I have never felt him so alive.”



Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI, is professor of theology at the Claretianum Institute and at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. Gabriella Fallacara is co-director of Centro Uno for the Unity of Christians, the Focolare’s international secretariat for ecumenism.

Quotations from Chiara Lubich are from On the Holy Journey (New City Press, 1988), pp. 142-3.


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