Running to Win the Prize: Paul Miki and Companions

The Church celebrates today the martyrdom of Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were executed on February 5, 1597, in Nagasaki, Japan. Through this odious path, they concluded their mission for their Lord and could speak like St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2Tim. 4:7-8). Through the outpouring of their blood, they won the eternal prize of beholding the glorious face of the Almighty forever.

This joy is the aspiration of all who accepted to be baptized into Christ and thus be assimilated into His life. They resolve to carefully listen to His teachings, diligently imitate His life and eventually win the crown of glory like Him. Further, St. Paul describes this journey as ‘running to win the prize.’ According to him, “everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training” (1Cor. 9:25). This means that competing and winning prizes is not for the weak but for the strong.

Imitation of Christ

The imitation of Christ, which all the baptized are called to, is generally a life of martyrdom. Then, the Christian path is not an easy path. It is full of challenges and requires fortitude and courage. Only the brave can endure the ordeals of martyrdom. The Lord would say, “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:14). The few that can walk this path are the daring. In fact, the feeble will prefer the broad and easy way, which only leads to doom, the reason it is written in the holy Book that cowards would not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. Rev. 21:8).

Moreover, living according to the demands of Christian virtues is not an easy undertaking. It requires sacrifice and perseverance. Not many have the stamina to make the sacrifices necessary for winning the heavenly prize. For instance, it is a lot easier to hate and take revenge than to forgive and love, even our enemies. There is a saying that revenge is sweet. Cowards relish the sweetness of revenge and snob at the bitter taste of forgiveness. The strong on the contrary snob the sweetness of revenge and endure the bitter taste of forgiveness for higher values.


It is equally easier to satisfy the desires of the carnal nature than to embrace chastity. To be chaste, one must swim against the current and resist the strong allurements of the flesh from day to day. It is the same for every Christian virtue—a struggle against an opposing current. This is something cowards and weaklings are not prepared to do.

It is little wonder then why God urged Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them” (Jos. 1:6). This is to say, if you must win the prize, if you must be successful, you must be strong and courageous. The Lord is saying the same thing to us today. If we must win the crown of glory like Paul Miki and his companions, we must not be cowards. We must know that the path to our ultimate desires is not an easy road. To win, we must be resolute and resilient, bearing in mind that “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). Therefore, run to win the glorious prize.

[Readings: 1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30; Mk 7:1-13]

Fr. Venatius Oforka

Fr. Venatius Chukwudum Oforka is a moral theologian. He was born in Nigeria and ordained a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Orlu. He is presently working in St. Martins parish, Oberstadion in Rottenburg-Stuttgart Diocese, Germany. Among his publications are The Bleeding Continent: How Africa became Impoverished and why it Remains Poor and The Art of Spiritual Warfare: The Secrete Weapons Satan can’t Withstand.

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