When I run, I pray the Rosary. I realized not long ago that many of the mysteries involve someone running, or at least traveling from one place to another. In the second joyful mystery, Mary goes “to the hill country in haste…and greet[s] Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-40) .” When Jesus rises from the dead, Mary Magdalene runs from the tomb to the upper room to tell the disciples that He is alive. And what do Peter and John do? They run to the tomb. When Jesus is taken into Heaven, he travels with his disciples to the top of a mountain, (granted, probably walking, but it helps to recall that one when I’m running uphill), and I’m sure the wedding guests in Cana had to travel some distance to attend.
So it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving. It’s freezing cold outside and I’m running, trying to concentrate on the Joyful Mysteries as I put one foot in front of the other. I’m only running three miles and I’m nearing the end. (A three-mile run is just about the right distance to pray one set of mysteries, including the opening and closing prayers. If I’m slow, I throw in a couple of extra Our Fathers and Hail Marys for the Pope’s intentions.) I’m praying the fifth mystery, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. I’m thinking about how Mary and Joseph, upon realizing Jesus isn’t in the caravan traveling away from Jerusalem, that they immediately turn back to find him. They must have been frantic with worry, and I imagine they journeyed at a pretty fast clip. They had one purpose: to get their son back into the safety of their care.
Then I remember the parable of the Good Shepherd, and how when one sheep is lost, he leaves the other ninety-nine behind to go find it. I realize that Mary and Joseph, as the parents of the Shepherd, are doing exactly what He does for us: they leave their friends and family and set out to find their lost boy–and of course, they learn that He was never lost in the first place. I imagine that there must have been much celebration in Nazareth when they returned safely.
I run for a lot of reasons, one of which is so that I can participate in 5K and 10K races. (Is there a half marathon in my future? We’ll see.) When I cross the finish line I’m greeted with cheers and shouts of “Great Job!” from people I’ve never met. Afterward I join the crowd of runners who have finished before me, and cheer for those who are still coming in. (It doesn’t take long, because there aren’t many runners behind me. Ha.) There is much celebration at the end of a race for everyone who has persevered and returned safely from the journey. And sometimes I need to remind myself that the most important person waiting at the finish line is Jesus.