Prayer & Spiritual Life

Did Jesus Ever Run?

by Steve Ray on May 17, 2016

IMG_6602I posted this awhile ago, but thought it fun to post again. Though my running days are over (Doctors have told me I ran to much and my knees are shot), I still do a lot of fast walking and even have a bike in Jerusalem. But it is good to remember the days I felt like an antelope.

I’ve run a lot around Israel in the last year — along the shore of Galilee, from Nazareth to Sepphoris and back (click hyperlink to see on YouTube video), around the walls of the Old City and then back through the Stations of the Cross, from Jerusalem to Bethany and much more — I love it! But while huffing a puffing along I’ve often wondered if Jesus ever ran. I concluded YES and NO.

Primarily I run to to do the right thing and to stay healthy, and secondarily because I love it — especially the ability to see things up close and to experience places and things and people like you can never do from a car or a bus. At right I am running with my son Jesse’s family and you can see Maria Faustina racing along beside me. I like to do this too!

I don’t think Jesus or others of his time (except children playing and athletes training for the Olympics) ran for reasons of health nor to see places from the ground. They saw everything that way already since they walked everywhere out of necessity.

My suspicion is that people did not run when they could walk and didn’t walk when they could sit down. They tried to conserve their energy. Life was tougher in those days as it was. Nothing was automated. Even getting water was not simply turning a water faucet but walking a mile with a heavy jug on your shoulder. People did not exert energy for the fun or it or to stay healthy or to see the countryside. They walked or ran only when they had to.

screen-capture-1Walking and running tend to be unusual in our day to. It take too much energy and we tend to take the path of least resistance. We drive here and there. We take escalators or elevators to avoid the stairs. We park our car as close to the front door of church as we can to avoid walking an extra fifty steps.

I’ll never forget the scene in The Gods Must Be Crazy when the lady in curlers jumped in her car, backed it out the 30 foot driveway, got her mail and drove back up the driveway.

I did a word search in the Bible to see how many times the word RUN or RAN were used in the Gospels. It happens that in the RSV-Catholic Edition the words are used 17 times. All of them are about others running, not Jesus. Mary Magdalen ran to tell the disciples that she had seen the risen Christ; Peter and John ran to the tomb (see picture above to left). The father of the prodigal son ran to greet his wayward son returning home. Some ran to Jesus and some ran to tell others about Jesus.

screen-capture-2I think Jesus ran as a boy. All boys run. In our house we have a rule — “No running!” Yeah, right. Tell 12 grandkids not to run in the house! They are full of life — how can they walk? Jesus ran as a boy and had fun playing kick ball or chase through the dusty paths between caves in Nazareth. Mary watched him run and laugh and tumble many times. I have no doubt of this.

But did he run as an adult? When he and his father walked back and for to work every day from Nazareth to Sepphoris — did they walk or run? I ran back and forth but I don’t’ think they did. They were up before the sun and had an hour to walk to work where they probably labored in the heat for 10 hours or more before walking back uphill to Nazareth. I think they conserved their energy and walked, taking the easiest paths.

But there may have been times when he ran too. We are told very little about his actual life and day to day activities. Even John tell us the purpose of his gospel was to convince us to believe in Jesus as our savior, not to tell us what he ate or if he ran to work. He wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

gal_grk_oly_runningSt. Paul mentions running quite a bit. He uses it as a metaphor for living the Christian life. We must run the race, he says. He refers to Olympic runners who run for a leafy laurel which will wither and fall off in a few days. How much more should we run the race to win the crown of eternal life (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1). Olympic runners ran stark naked so as not to be tripped up or slowed down by his robes. Paul tells us to cast aside any encumbrance — like sin — that will keep us from winning the race. He is right!

Sometimes I wish the biblical authors had written more — for my curiosity’s sake. I wish Luke had told us more details of the discussion on the road to Emmaus or what Peter and Paul talked about for two weeks alone in Jerusalem. Maybe that is just my own problem since I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity.

When I get to heaven I am going to RUN up to Jesus and after I worship him and thank him for my salvation — I am going to ask him if he ever ran. And since I will want to explore heaven (and I will have new knees), I might as him if he would like to go out for a run and show me around. Well, maybe…

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The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 10% discount.

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Two things profoundly touched me at Mass today. These things are shared not for my sake but to encourage and inspire the reader — you. 

First, the Mass was full and people were standing in the back. This is a “poor parish” but Fr. Bob and a team of young people have reached out to the community. It has worked. The church is full for all the weekend Masses. 

What is particularly moving is the blend of people — a great snapshot of the universal Church. Lots of whites, yes, but black singles and families too. Orientals, Middle-eastern, Hispanics…  And I made a mental calculate yesterday and concluded that more than half of the people were under the age of thirty. 

And they were participating, singing praying and visibly enjoying the Mass. What a joy for me! The Church is very much alive.

The second thing that touched me was a young black girl with her baby. She was nicely dressed and took good care of her baby boy. She looked uncomfortable, didn’t go up for holy communion and stayed to herself.  

Sometimes the Lord puts something in our mind or heart and hopes we will follow through. Usually we are too shy, timid or hesitant. “How do I know that is really the Lord asking me to do that?” 

Yesterday the Lord nudged me and I felt compelled to give the girl some money. I didn’t want to insult her or be condescending so I almost didn’t do it. But I pulled out my wallet and grabbed a $50 bill. After Mass I walked over to her and patted the boy not the head and said, “Beautiful baby you have.” She said “Thanks.”

Reaching out I handed her the $50 and said, “Use this to do something nice for him.” She looked surprised, I smiled and continued toward the door. A moment later she caught us before we left and said, “How did you know?” I said, “How did I know what?” She looked at me curiously for a moment and said, “How did you know that we are in a very tough financial position right now? How did you know?”

I said, “I didn’t know. The Lord told me to give you $50 and so I did.” She thanked me again and with a still incredulous look on her face she gathered up her baby and diaper bag and I was grabbed by another couple and didn’t see where the young mother went. I have a call in to the pastor to see if I can find out who she was so we can maybe help her some more.

After that event I thanked the Lord a hundred times and laid in bed full of joy that God had used me to do — who knows what? Was that her first time to church feeling lonely and not sure what to do? Did that small act of kindness pay a bill or allow her to buy food much needed that day? Will it encourage her to come back to Mass? Will that small act of generosity inspired by God lead that young boy to be a priest someday? 

I don’t know, but I am very happy this morning. The Lord is correct, “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Try it!

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