Brethren, know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty; I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all in Moses were baptized; in the cloud and in the sea; and all did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ). But with the most of them God was not well pleased.
Epistle for Septuagesima Sunday, 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 10:1-5; quoted from The Roman Missal (Fr. Lasance).
I have heard this reading a hundred times but its meaning finally became clear to me today at Mass. In short, St. Paul is saying that although we’re all members of Christ’s Church, that’s not enough. All of the Israelites walked through the Red Sea when it parted, nevertheless most of them were not pleasing to God. They were grumblers and complainers and turned to idolatry at the first opportunity. Most of us Catholics do not please God. We need to be not merely “in the race,” but run as if to win it. Not merely be in the Church, but be among the few in the Church with whom God is well pleased.
And how do we run as if to win the race? By chastising our bodies and bringing them into submission, just as an athlete disciplines his body by training hard and restricting his diet.