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“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7)

On the third Monday in April, the state of Massachusetts commemorates Patriots’ Day – the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first ones of the American Revolutionary War. On that day, mounted re-enactors retrace the midnight rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes. The festivities also include the Boston Marathon, an annual race which began in 1897. It is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the best-known road racing events. The event attracts half a million spectators each year with over 30,000 registered participants from many nations. On April 21, 1980, the 84th Boston Marathon, 26-year-old Cuban-born Rosie Ruiz finished first in the women’s division with a time of 2:31:56. It represented the third-fastest marathon time in history for a woman and was a 25-minute improvement over her New York City Marathon time the former year. Ruiz was unknown in the running world, and her victory raised suspicion with some. When interviews were conducted, it was discovered that neither the monitors at the various checkpoints nor any of the marathon runners remembered seeing her during the race. After studying photographs, it was noted that Ruiz didn’t appear in any of them until the very end. Eight days later – Ruiz was stripped of her victory after race officials learned she entered the race about a mile before the finish line. Apparently miscalculating, she had not realized she had jumped in ahead of the other 448 female competitors. Her New York time from the prior year was also later invalidated, when officials discovered she had taken the subway during part of that race.

The Greek philosopher Plato once wrote, “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”  A further lesson we can take from the incident at the Boston Marathon is that we cannot always be certain that the world’s way of ranking things represents truth. Jesus was once asked by a young rich man what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by saying, “Why do you ask me about what is good? “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). The man replied that he felt he had been doing all those things and wondered what he still lacked. “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:21-22). Jesus teaches us that there will be many surprises in heaven. Heaven’s value system is far different than that of the world we know. Those who are esteemed and respected in this world (like the rich young ruler or others who are not always what they appear to be) may be frowned upon by God. The opposite is also true, for those who are despised and rejected in this world (like the disciples) may be rewarded by God. In fact, Jesus concludes this passage by saying: “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).

So what is the take-away here? It is simply this. The world’s way of making judgments is often far too prone to error. In the 21st century, the impact of ‘fake news’ has become widespread with instant access to social media. In recent years, the usage of the term has also increased in the midst of heavily fought political campaigns. And while it wasn’t always a favorite subject of politicians and news media – misinformation, spin, lies and deceit have been around forever. It is up to each of us to speak for God. In opening the holiest week of the Christian calendar in 2018, Pope Francis delivered a Palm Sunday homily suggesting Jesus was the original target of ‘false public spin,’ as he urged young people not to keep quiet about their faith. That’s good advice for all believers, regardless of our age. In the words of Jesus: “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15).  If we want to be people of fact, then we must steep ourselves in the ultimate truth of Christ and share it with others. Unfortunately, good news of any kind is not always what our society values or wants to hear. And that’s too bad, because there will undoubtedly be times ahead when the Good News of Jesus may represent the only real news of the day that is not fake.

REFLECTION: How do you weigh the news you see and hear in published, broadcast, and social media against what you know to be true?  How can you do this without becoming judgmental? How might you apply the words of Peter: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).


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