2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
One of my favorite television shows is Ultimate Survivor Alaska, a National Geographic program. In this show teams of men try every week to be first in reaching a certain destination in order to pick up a victory for that week. Now, they are in the back country of Alaska, so the challenges that face them are enormous. If they do get to the weekly destinations, however, they are one step closer to winning the huge prize at the end reserved for the team with the most wins.
I love this show. First of all, the incredible beauty of Alaska makes this show worth viewing. But more importantly, this show reminds me so much of our struggle to get to heaven.
I see three similarities in our struggle and the struggle facing these men: the desire to reach a goal; the need to overcome obstacles, and the necessity of a team.
The goal for these men is simple. Each week they must get to a preset destination before the other teams. The ultimate goal is to be the best, or ultimate.
Their obstacles are unbelievable. I have watched them as they scale mountains, kayak across raging waters, bushwhack though thick foliage, and pull themselves out of quicksand. They have had to swim through ice, dodge rock slides and distract wild animals.
The amazing and beautiful part of all this is how they work together as a team. Each member totally respects the specific and special talents and abilities of his teammates. They defer to each other’s knowledge and experience to plan their attack against the elements and reach the goal. They need each other to stay alive in this battle against nature. One man falls into the ice and other two are there to get him out. One man is swept away by the current and the others are there to rescue him and pull him to safety. One man broke his ankle, and although it could have cost the others the entire race, they would not leave him behind just to win that day’s challenge.
That is how it is for us in our spiritual lives. Ultimately, we want to get to heaven. To do that, however, we must overcome many, many challenges along the way. Society is filled with dangers that can trap us at any time, that can cause us to lose our way or start to sink. We cannot fight through the distractions and temptations that surround us if we do not have our eyes firmly fixed on the goal. Each of us must have a plan, of course and the means to fulfill it, just like the teams have a map and food for the journey (our Bible and Eucharist) but we must recognize that we cannot do it alone. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis I all speak of the New Evangelization as the only hope for a world that closely resembles the wilds of Alaska. None of us can battle today unless we have a good team to support us. We need each other in order to survive.
In every show I watch, at least one team member states that he would have died had it not been for his teammates. So it is with us. We have to have people in our lives who will show us when we are on the wrong path, or sinking in the quicksand of sin, or trying to follow a dangerous path that takes us away from our ultimate goal. The call is for us to put ourselves out there in the world as well and be the special team member to others: to youth who have no direction; to young adults who may not see how God fits into the picture anymore, to the engaged couples in our parishes who may need examples of what good holy marriage looks like. The list goes on and on.
We are really crazy if we think we will make it today without a support group. We cannot see the dangers and snares that await us at every turn. We must join parish groups, prayer meetings, attend good lectures, help out in shelters and homes for the elderly and find like-minded people who will save us when we fall. Jesus came for everyone, but He surrounded Himself with 12 really good friends. That is the example we must follow. Make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ is the motto of the Cursillo movement in the Church. It applies to us all. Let’s start today to be a team member in the struggle to get to heaven, and let’s just be thankful every day that we don’t have to swim through ice to do it!!!