Leviticus 25:1, 8-17
Anais Nin said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage." If that’s the case, then John the Baptist lived a colossal life.
Nothing could hold John back. He was fearless. He was faithful. He was determined. He spoke the truth as he saw it and didn’t count the cost. In the end, it cost him his head.
The dictionary defines courage as "that quality which enables one to pursue a course deemed right, through which one may incur contempt, disapproval, or opprobrium."
I imagine John the Baptist was a peace-loving man. But for him it was not peace at any price. He watched Jesus. And he could see that to speak the truth and act out of truth often brought conflict and division. The example of John’s courage in the gospel stiffens our own backbones for the many challenges of life.
It takes courage not only to stand up for what we believe. It takes courage to face loneliness. It takes courage to deal with suffering. It takes courage to admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness. It takes courage to forgive even when the other is not sorry. It takes courage to get up after we have failed. It takes courage to love, even though we know our hearts may break again. Everybody needs courage.
Like John the Baptist, a person with faith goes to the source of courage. If we get out of bed in the morning to face the day and we depend only upon our own wisdom, our own strength and our own cleverness, we have every reason to be afraid. The wolves will prevail. But if we place our lives totally in the hands of God, counting on his power and his love, we can sport a confident and unflinching smile. With the psalmist we proclaim, "O Most High, when I am afraid, I place my trust in you." (Psalm 56:4)
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/