Today we honour the memory of Saint Martin of Tours. He was imprisoned as a young man for being a conscientious objector and refusing to join the Roman army. It’s interesting that his feast falls on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Martin became a monk in 360 and some have argued that Saint Martin – and not Saint Benedict – is really the founder of monasticism in the Western Church. In 372 Martin became bishop of Tours and he is honoured by the Church for his pastoral zeal. He died in 397 and today is the anniversary of his burial.
If you get the chance to watch top athletes on television, what do you notice? Surely you’re impressed by the grace and the skill they bring to their sport. You may be awed by their flawless technique. No doubt, you’re also taken with how much they seem to enjoy what they’re doing. It looks so easy and fun. But do you ever stop to ask how they got to the top of their sport? Without exception, it was through rigorous discipline.
Discipline is an important element in our vocation. Our Lord wants all of us to receive the greatest prize of all: eternal life. And so he warns us not to fall into the trap that the people of Noah’s time did. They did all the things people do today: eat, drink, buy, sell, and get married. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things. But the problem was that in all their busyness, there was no room for God. We are all on the way to heaven, and we should let nothing get in our way.
Now discipline scares off many people today. And yet spiritual discipline doesn’t have to be depressing. Scripture does tell us to “persevere in running the race.” But it says that Jesus died “for the sake of the joy that lay before him” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our Lord didn’t drag his Cross, crushed by the weight of it: he embraced it. As those who are in training for the next life, we will face our own share of challenges. But they will all seem light if we keep in mind what Saint Paul told the Romans: “the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18).
The key to discipline is to maintain our vision of what’s ahead. Without it the athlete with remain at best only average. And it may help us to use Saint Paul’s imagery of the sprinter. Imagine yourself at the starting block looking far down the track, and at the finishing line which is heaven. And Our Lord, waiting there to greet us with those words: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the glory prepared for you” (Matthew 25:21).
On this anniversary of Armistice Day we remember the sacrifice of those men and women of the armed services who gave their lives that we may live in security and peace. Let us also pray for those currently serving in the troubled areas of the world, that the Lord will protect them and bring them home safely.