Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Spirit of Courage

The third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete” Sunday: a Latin verb meaning “rejoice”; rejoice because Jesus, the joy of our salvation, is about to be born.

You may know the story behind the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.  After 1558, for some two centuries, Catholics in England couldn't practice their faith openly.  Someone wrote that carol as a kind of statement about Catholic belief.

The Partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ. The two turtle doves are the old and new testaments. Three French hens are faith, hope and love.  Four calling birds are the Gospels. The five golden rings are the Torah.  Six geese a-laying are the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming are the seven gifts of the Spirit.  Eight maids a-milking are the beatitudes.  Nine ladies dancing are the fruits of the spirit.  The 10 lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments. Eleven pipers piping are the faithful disciples.  And the 12 drummers drumming symbolize the points of belief in the Apostles Creed.

History holds many examples of hope and courage in challenging times.

The Word of God takes us back probably to Isaiah of the 6th century before Jesus.  Babylonia had conquered Jerusalem, destroyed whatever it could.  Yet the author speaks about new beginnings: the desert will bloom; the wilderness will burst with life; the messiah will come.  
John the Baptist in the Wilderness
In the Gospel, John the Baptist cried out “repent”; live an other-centered, a God-centered life.  And when Jesus walked along the banks of the Jordan, John pointed to him as the sacrificial Lamb of God through whose bloody death/glorious resurrection we are in relationship with God.

What caught my attention were the words of Isaiah, “fear not”; and the courage of John the Baptist. A common phrase in the New Testament is “Do not be afraid.”  A common phrase in the Old Testament is “Be not afraid.”  These phrases appear more than 1,000 times.  Do you think God might be trying to get a message across to us?

Some psychologists argue that the most dominant emotion is fear.  Think about it.  We're afraid of so many things.  Fear can paralyze us; fear stops more people from doing something extraordinary than lack of ability.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the acquired ability to move beyond fear.  Courage is an acquired virtue.  Virtues are like muscles—when you exercise them, they become stronger.  The courageous pilot John Glenn logged many miles before he orbited the earth.

In our daily struggles and decisions that affect work, career, family and social life, we know that we are not alone, for God has given us courage, one of the Spirit's seven gifts.  This Spirit fills us with the life and power and energy of God.

Starting a new venture, making a sacramental commitment like marriage, struggling to overcome an addiction, coming humbly before God in prayer: life requires courage.  Courage animates us, and makes so many things possible.

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