It almost seems like an oxymoron. Competition and Faith seem diametrically opposed to one another. Faith is a gift. It is not something we achieve or earn. It is God reaching out to us and bridging the gap that reason alone cannot cross and yet Paul is very specific about this when he writes to Timothy. His words are direct. Compete well for the Faith.
In competitive situations there are winners and losers. Paul’s exhortation to compete suggests or presupposes that the goal is to be a winner, but, in that case, who is the loser? The answer to that question should be obvious to us: Satan. In our day to day struggles of life, Satan is there looking for every opportunity to cause us to fall and to fail. It is with him that we compete, but we know he is stronger than we are and so we must seek the help of God… through Faith. To compete well for the Faith is to act in ways that strengthen our Faith by the grace of God.
In today’s first reading, Amos warns us against complacency. We know from watching sporting events that the competitor who is winning can easily lose if he grows complacent. The same is true of our lives. Whoever said, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” knew the dangers of complacency so we go back to Paul’s letter to Timothy and find new meaning in his opening words from today’s reading: But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness.
Look in depth at the story of the rich man and Lazarus from today’s Gospel and you will find none of these. The rich man’s righteousness is one of self, not from God. His devotion is to himself. His faith lies in his wealth. He is complacent in his love for others as if he only has love for himself. His patience is non-existent and blinds him to the needs of others. Gentleness is for others; he has no time for it. When we consider these pursuits of Paul’s advice to Timothy we can better understand his admonition to Compete well for the Faith.