Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. The first reading this Sunday is about encouraging moral courage and strength. There is a prophet who cries out to God in distress on behalf of the people who are suffering. In his reply, God encourages them to be people of courage and assures them that strength will come from doing what is right for ‘the upright person will live by his faithfulness’. In contrast, the person ‘whose soul is not at rights, see how he flags’.
The truth of God’s response is borne out by human experience. If I have made choices that were guided by doing what is right, just and loving then my soul will be at peace before God even though the consequences of these choices may be difficult. I will have a strength and a peace to face anything or anyone once I know in my heart that I have always acted rightly, justly and lovingly before God. On the other hand, if I have done what is wrong, or acted unjustly or for selfish motives then I will never be free or have peace. I will be afraid to be found out, always looking over my shoulder. When the first experience of suffering comes along, my soul flags because, exactly as the Scriptures say ‘my soul is not at rights’.
I would like to offer three examples of people of our time who are inspirational examples of moral courage. The first is the late Donal Walsh from Kerry who courageously gave witness to thousands of people of the value of human life. He didn’t have to go public with his message but choose to do so because it was the right thing to do. On this Day for Life, he reminds us of the value of every human life, born and unborn.
The second example is a young girl from Pakistan called Malala who dared to advocate for the right to education for girls and women like herself. She was shot in the head by the Taliban but miraculously survived to continue her fight that was recognised globally when she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She is a shining example of moral courage in always doing what is just and the strength in her that comes from that, is there for all of us to see.
The final example of moral courage is Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish girl who has become the face of climate justice around the world. Hearing her words to world leaders inspires us to be people of moral courage who raise our voices when we need to for a cause that is just and noble.
Donal Walsh, Malala and Greta Thunberg. Three people of moral courage who lived their lives by what is right, what is just and what is loving. As they inspire us, they make us more like them. In seeking how to live and what values to hold, may doing what is pleasing, popular or fashionable never be as important for us as doing what is right, just and loving.