Over the years one of my friends has mostly managed - by fair means or foul - to avoid competing in the mums' race at school sports days. Until a few years ago, that is, when her ruse failed and she found herself lining up at the start, having been dragged there by her delighted son. She describes how the fit, competitive, trainer-wearing mums disappeared in a cloud of dust before her, while she and a few other mums, similarly unfit and unprepared, puffed, bounced and staggered along, doing their utmost to avoid coming in last and acutely aware of how embarrassingly clumsy and ridiculous they looked.
As soon as she had crossed the line her beaming son ran up, threw his arms around her and proudly declared "well done mum, you were GREAT!!" She protested "but I was second last, I didn't win..." whereupon he hugged her even tighter and vehemently pronounced words which must surely have made her ordeal worthwhile: "mum, you'll ALWAYS be a winner to ME!"
I had recently been feeling discouraged about something. Nothing major, but enough of an upset for me to feel low: I had been trying my best, but it had become clear this wasn't "good enough", for all sorts of reasons. And then, two days ago, reading the second reading for Sts Peter & Paul - I have run the race to the finish - an image of my racing friend drifted into my head, closely followed by her son, bursting with love and pride... and in an instant I knew, without any doubt, that however much of an idiot I may be, whatever mistakes I may make, however short I may fall, as far the God who is infinite, unconditional Love is concerned, I'll always be a winner...
"Come to me all you who labour and are over-burdened..." says Jesus in today's gospel, and those burdens can surely include low self-esteem, anxiety, failure and the fear of failing. In which case what greater rest could he offer us than the chance to rest in the certainty of being truly, deeply loved and valued - warts, failures and all?
Today, I and my RSCJ sisters from all over the world not only celebrate the love of the Heart of Jesus, we also renew our vows, re-committing ourselves to our common call and mission: to discover, live and make known that love, in whatever way we can. As the strapline to this blog says, we're called to live and love from the heart. This year I'll be committing myself to making known a Love which beams with joy and tells us all we're winners - even when we so clearly aren't - and praying for the grace to communicate that to those around me, especially those who most need to know this.
Having read this far please do say a prayer for me, and for all RSCJ, that we may live this call with generous, passionate hearts.
Thank you - and happy Feast!