As a kid, we have probably often heard the words of the starter, “On your Mark! Get set! GO!” Then in a flurry of flapping limbs we made our way as quickly as we could to the finish line. We rarely, if ever, won the race, but we tried – at least for that race. Some took it very seriously and became first class athletes. I asked a friend of mine who was a world class athlete, “When you lined up against 7 other world-class athletes on the starting line, what made you think that you could win?” He replied, “10% hard work and training; 90% self-belief.”  I was astounded – it would never have worked for me no matter how much self-belief I had! One has to be gifted physically etc. to be a champion of any sport.

In Matthew’s Gospel today, Jesus is saying much the same as my friend said – to be a champion disciple, it starts in the mind/heart and is consummated in action. Like the champion athlete, the champion disciple has to train hard (prayer and worship) and run the race (service). One big difference though – the belief is not in self, but rather in Jesus Christ.

The talent or gift necessary for the race is from God on request – the gift of faith.

We’re not born with it, but we choose it (faith is a choice, not an obligation). The action doesn’t need to be extraordinary, but sincere and consistent. As Jesus claims, even the “tax collectors and prostitutes” can do it! They believed and acted.

The “champion” athlete who claims to be a champion but has never run a race, makes a hollow claim. So too for us as baptised disciples of Christ, who claim to be His disciples but if we never act on that claim, we too make a hollow claim. It is of little use to claim that Christ is our Saviour unless we express it in our behaviour – unless like the tax collectors and prostitutes to whom Jesus refers, we hear His message, believe it, and act on it; unless we love, treat, and respect each other for Christ.

On our mark! Get set! Go and announce the Gospel by our holy lives!

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