Running with Joy

Since I was about 16 years old, I have been a runner. While I have not run any marathons, I do enjoy a good 3- to 5-mile run about five times a week. Even when I am on vacation I still make an effort to run. Running is something I thoroughly enjoy. Feeling the wind in my face, smelling the earth and seeing the beauty of nature change over time is both invigorating and freeing.

Some years ago my younger brother, Harry, asked me, “Dave, what are you running from?” At that moment I dismissively brushed that question aside. All I knew then was that I enjoyed running and that was enough for me. Over the years Harry has asked me the same question, and I continuously run away from it (excuse the pun).

In recent years, as my 56-year-old body becomes older and less limber, I have begun to entertain that uncomfortable question: “What am I running from?” On a surface level I think I always have been running from becoming fat. Another aspect to this is that I am running from idleness. I like to be on the move and keep moving on the treadmill of life. The thought of doing nothing is unsettling to me. But I know there is a deeper answer to this question. After much prayer and direction I have come to see that, in some ways, I have been running from myself as well as the challenges of life.

Of course, running has been a positive addiction and a means of personal wellness that has helped me beyond words. At the same time, running has been an escape from reality. Sometimes what has motivated me to run are those moments I see things about myself and others that I do not like. I literally run away from it. The paradox in all of this, though, is that in running, if I’m open to it, I can prayerfully encounter myself and even come to see others around me and the problems of life with new eyes. Thus, while I may be running away from some aspect of myself or some problem or concern about life, I find running and simultaneously praying allows me to run toward some aspect of personal discovery about myself or someone or something else.

Perhaps you might not physically run, but do you find yourself wanting to run away? Do you ever want to run from encountering yourself, or from conflict or difficult people?

St. Paul writes about running: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win” (1 Cor 9:24).

To run with a winning spirit is to exude faith even in the darkest of moments, trusting that our God will always provide. In looking at the accounts of the Resurrection, running is implicitly involved. For example, in Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the tomb quickly — “fearful yet overjoyed” (28:8). In Mark, the same women, along with Mary, the mother of James, and Salome flee from the tomb overcome with “trembling and bewilderment” (16:8). In Luke, upon hearing about the empty tomb, Peter runs to see for himself (see 24:12). Finally, in John, Mary Magdalene discovers the stone has been removed from Jesus’ tomb and runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple to share this news (20:2). After hearing this news, these two disciples run to the tomb, but it is noted that the other disciple is faster.

In this Easter season we are all called to run from the empty tomb and announce to our people that Jesus Christ is alive; he is risen. It not only is important that we run, but also that we smile while doing so in order that the whole world can see the joy of the Good News! Happy Easter!

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 13 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, follow The Priest on Twitter @PriestMagazine and like us on Facebook.