Palm Sunday Half Marathon-ing
By Kaitlyn Goertzen
“With palms let us welcome the Lord as he comes, with songs and hymns let us run to meet him, as we offer him our joyful worship and sing: Blessed be the Lord!” (Benedictus Antiphon)
Running is like our spiritual life on earth. There are times of suffering when it seems almost unbearable to continue moving forward, times that tease at the thought that God has abandoned you. But then, there are times of absolute joy, indescribable hope and amazing grace, times when your faith is affirmed a hundred fold. Running a half marathon, 13.1 whole miles, is plenty of time to experience many of these stages within one continuous race. Just like the race of life!
We began in the morning. Twenty of us gathered in a Newman blue circle to pray in front of Reser Stadium. Fr. Ivan led and blessed us, helping us to better orient our hearts towards our intentions for the feat ahead. “For Christ! With Christ! Like Christ! Vamos!” Each of us ran carrying something – our own sin and suffering – but also with prayer intentions for friends, family or even strangers. Our race, became a form of prayer in itself. As we ran, we prayed for those in our hearts (or inscribed with sharpie on our forearms) and any physical pain we encountered was offered up and united to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Along the way we encountered armies of angels cheering our names, holding neon signs and urging us onward. Turns out these mobs of cheerleading angels were actually our friends from the Newman Center – but what’s the difference!? They seemed to be sent from on high with encouragement that came at just the right moments to carry us forward.
In the race of life, we keep the finish line in mind, staying hopeful and anticipating the celebration that will accompany its arrival. But, each step we take cannot be compared to the glory of the finish line or the entire race would be unbearable. Instead, we must celebrate each step. Spending 13 miles worth of steps admiring the most fluent mechanical system ever invented (your body!), or the beautifully distant hills that make you feel small, or the sun that allows you to see your next step, is MORE than bearable. Spending 13 miles contemplating this creation surrounding you and attributing it to the hands of your Father is prayer. We also prayed as we ran for those in our lives that needed the strength more than we did. It is crazy how far prayer will move you.
Nearing the finish line, seeing those gathered in celebration of our efforts and embracing us, despite our sweat and stench, was unforgettable. We did it! All glory to God! We had run after Jesus, towards Jerusalem, into Holy Week, shouting Hosanna! What a beautiful preparation for Holy Week.
Preparing was not easy in the least, but absolutely worth it. There were days amidst record-setting rainfall when we did not want to run at all and sometimes we didn’t. All of the miles that we did or didn’t run were in preparation for the race. We spend our whole lives making these small decisions in preparation for that final day. Will we be conditioned to choose Christ?
Kaitlyn is a sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University. When she’s not in class, you can find her attempting to play guitar, bouncing around the Newman Center or soaking up any glimpse of Corvallis sunshine. This year, she serves on the Leadership Team running the Newman Center’s various social media platforms.