Dear friends. I saw a funny T-Shirt once that pictured two dogs on the front. One was a small terrier who was looking up at a very big Rottweiler. The T-shirt said: ‘Always have the courage to say what you think’. A bubble came from the terrier’s mouth with these words addressed to the Rottweiler: ‘Go and get stuffed!’ (The actual words used were not as polite but you get the picture!).
Today I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the importance of having courage and the gift of courage we have from our faith. I begin with the experience of life itself. At times it isn’t easy. It is tough. Everyone faces challenges. No one escapes, young or old. Faced with these challenges, it is not so much our success in overcoming them that counts but the courage with which we face them. I say this because success is not final. Neither is failure always fatal. It is the courage to continue that matters. Every problem, though it might be unwelcome, is a character building opportunity, a chance for us to build up spiritual muscle and moral fibre. We tend to focus much on what we do, what we achieve and our current circumstances. But what endures forever is who we are and who we become. That is why being courageous and becoming courageous is so important.
One of the features of Jesus’ that is so attractive is his courage. Nowhere is this seen better than at his passion where the threat of violence, torture and death hung over him. If he continued ‘on message’ and did not tone down his teaching then execution awaited him. He knew this but despite that he did not let threats or intimidation stop him from being faithful to his message and mission. What happened to him was the perfect fulfilment of the first reading today where evil cringes in the face of goodness and seeks to destroy it. In that reading from the book of Wisdom, Jesus is the righteous man who was tested with cruelty and torture and who was condemned to a shameful death. Through his passion and terrible suffering, the Lord’s strength was his faith in the Father and his fidelity to the truth. I love the line from the passion where Jesus is beaten for answering back the High Priest: ‘If I have spoken wrongly, point it out. Otherwise why did you strike me?’ (John 18:23). He had come to bear witness to the truth. For this he was born.
Have you ever met with resistance, ridicule and criticism for doing the right thing? Through what you suffered, was the truth your and faithfulness to your own integrity your strength? If it was then we rejoice for we share in the courage of Christ that was given to us at our baptism and Confirmation as a gift of the Holy Spirit. If God is at the centre then all trials that come our way will be those ‘through which we triumph by the power of him who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37). On the other hand if the truth is not our strength or if we compromise our integrity to avoid ridicule then fear is our constant companion. Truth is not always pleasant or what we want to hear. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest way or most popular choice. But living by the truth and doing what is right are the foundations of being courageous people.
We have been baptised into the courage of Jesus. He is our courage and strength to face any obstacle, illness or difficulty. His promise is close to us: ‘In the world you will have trouble but be brave, I have conquered the world’ (Jn. 16:33). God does not need greatness of effort. He needs greatness of people. In this Mass we pray for the strength to persist and the courage to endure. May He make our hearts kind but our spirits brave. If we are going through a hard time right now, maybe it is best not to ask ‘Why me?’ but ‘What can I learn from all of this? Or ‘how am I being called to love in all this?’ Then, trust God and keep on doing what is right and living by what is true. Never give up but grow up into the people God calls you to be. In the words of the Psalm: ‘Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord’ (Ps. 31:24).