There Are No Protestants In The Marathon
How could anyone running a marathon not believe in Purgatory?
Metaphors are inherently flawed. That said, miles twenty to twenty-six of the marathon make an awfully good metaphor for purgatory. (Emphasis on the awfully)
Let’s start at the beginning. Nobody makes you do a marathon. You choose to enter and you choose to train. That finish line is a place that you really want to cross. Something awaits you at the end of the marathon that makes you want to suffer. Make no mistake about it. Choosing to do a marathon, like purgatory, is choosing to suffer.
So you have chosen to cross that finish line, to make it to your heaven. To do so, you must take up your cross, either in this life or the next.
In marathoning, this life is your training. What you choose to do in this life makes all the difference during those last six miles. What you will suffer then, of your own choosing, directly relates to how much you chose to suffer in life.
Those last six miles are a cleansing fire that burns away all the dross and all is made manifest. Every virtue diligently practiced and equally every vice will be clear to you then. If you ran every day rain or shine, put in your miles no matter what; ate the right way and got your rest; and suffered for your goal, you may even enjoy those last six miles even if they still hurt. If not, every missed workout and every wrong thing you did in your training will be repaid in full over those last six miles. Repaid in full.
But you continue on. For there is only one road to the finish line and it is the road of suffering. As a runner, you know this. You accept this. You understand this. There are no protestants in the marathon. So why is it that something that seems so obvious is so easily denied?
No marathoner would sign up for the marathon, do little or no training, show up to the starting line and expect to be magically transported pain free to the finish line. What would be so special about crossing that line if that was the way it worked?
During this last marathon, I suffered greatly during many miles as did so many others who made the choice to run as well. I, like them, chose to keep going even though I could quit at any time. We were all one, encouraging one another even though we knew there was nothing we could do to help, we were a happy communion of suffering.
As I crossed the finish line, I knew all that I had done wrong in my preparation just as I knew that my suffering was due to each and every fault of mine. But the price of those mistakes had been paid and my suffering was now over (or at least will be in a few days.) I had my reward and I pray that one day I will one get my eternal reward and hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Now come feast on stale bagels and lemon/lime Gatorade.” Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point. Like I said, no metaphor is perfect.