There is a fabulous scene in the movie-classic Chariots of Fire, where the hero of the film, Eric Liddle, is running the 400 against another three sprinters. Almost at the start of the race, the runner next to Liddle elbows him. Cascading to the ground, Liddle raises his gaze contemplating the runner’s kick up dust.
Two options: either throw in the towel and call it quits; or spring to his feet, gun it, and go for the victory. Liddle chose the latter. With all the energy in every fiber of his strong athletic body, Liddle pours it on. Passing one, he then passes another, but the runner that knocked him to the ground stills has the lead. Not for long! Eric Liddle gives it one last burst of tremendous effort and he breaks through the finish line winning by a split-second, collapsing and plunging to the ground. Panting and panting like a fish out of water, his opponent vanquished, the victory is won by Eric Liddle.
One of the trainers commented: Indeed, it was not the prettiest victory, but it most certainly was the most valiant, the most courageous! Against all odds, due to sheer determination, will power and guts, Eric Liddle won the 400 and eventually would win the same title and the Gold Medal in the Olympic Games in France at the beginning of the 20th Century!
Brought up and raised in the social milieu and cultural context of the Greek Olympic Games, Saint Paul with a certain frequency alludes to athletic feats or events related to sports competition. The two most common sports competitions mentioned by the Apostle to the Gentiles would be that of boxing—we are called to fight the good fight; and then the race/marathon. Paul challenges us to run the good race and receive the merited crown awaiting the victor.
In another passage Paul encourages the followers of Christ to strive not for a crown that perishes, but the crown that will last for eternal life. In other words, earthly victory and gain is like a laurel wreath placed on our head; it will soon dry up, wither and perish. Our eternal crown in heaven will never perish but shine forever!
The great Moral Theologian and Doctor of the Church, Saint Alphonsus Liguori asserts the following: “The grace of all graces is to die in the state of grace.” Meaning? If we can appreciate grace, live in the state of grace, grow in grace, and end our race on earth in the state of grace, then we will have won the final race and attained our eternal salvation.
Indeed, on a daily basis we should implore, beg, supplicate the Lord Jesus, His Heavenly Mother Mary, the angels and saints for the grace of all graces—to die in the state of grace. No greater grace exists in the world! This we must beg for ourselves, our family, our loved ones and for the whole world! Lord, grant us this grace of all graces!
Therefore, this being the case on the scale of eternal realities, we would like to warmly exhort all to undertake five specific practices so that all can attain the grace of all graces—to die in the state of grace and attain eternal salvation!
1. LIVE EACH DAY AS IF IT WERE YOUR LAST. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ never promised us another year, another month, another week, another day, another hour, nor even another second. The life we live and the moment we die is totally uncertain. We might live another 25 years, but we might live another 25 seconds. This depends on the mysterious designs of God.
2. EXIT FROM MORTAL SIN IMMEDIATELY! If your house were on fire at night, obviously you would not wait until dawn to call the firefighters! In mortal sin, our spiritual house is on fire and we should extinguish the flames first by making a Perfect Act of Contrition immediately, and then by having recourse to Sacramental Confession as soon as possible. Do not play Russian-Roulette with your eternal salvation!
3. FERVENT, FREQUENT AND FIERY COMMUNIONS. As often as possible attend Holy Mass. In the state of grace receive Jesus in Holy Communion. However, with great fervor! Receive the Eucharistic Lord Jesus as if it were your First Holy Communion, your Last Holy Communion, and your Only Holy Communion. The Lord wants fervor and love in your receptions!
4. DO WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR GOD ALONE. The secret of the saints is living out what is sometimes called The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meaning this: live each day, hour and minute of your day with the intention of pleasing God, praising God, saving souls and sanctifying your own soul. Purity of intention in all that we say and do is very important for God and for growing in holiness of life. Saint Paul asserts: “Whether you eat or drink, do all for the honor and glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Saint Ignatius’ theme is the four letters: A.M.D.G.—All for the greatest glory of God! Saint Therese expressed it as such: “Holiness does not depend on doing big things but on doing the ordinary things of daily life with extraordinary love.”
5. THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY: THE HAIL MARY AND THE HOLY ROSARY. Finally, as a sure anchor for our eternal salvation we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we pray in the Memorare: “Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided.” The prayer that can be of untold value so as to attain the grace of all graces, to die in the state of grace and attain our eternal salvation, is the Hail Mary, better yet the Hail Mary prayed 50 + times; we call it the most Holy Rosary. If we can pray this powerful weapon on a daily basis, praying fervently: “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”, no doubt the Blessed Virgin Mary will be present in our last and dying moments praying fervently for our soul and helping us to repent of our sins, trust in God’s mercy, and end by loving God. Heaven will be ours. The grace of all graces will be ours!