“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” – such are the closing words of today’s gospel. Now I have the odd problem, but if people asked me if I had troubles, my response would be “No.” I recognize that such fortune has been a gift from God. And yet…it makes me wonder if I have ever really been tested – and if I was, would I have courage. Would I really believe Jesus has conquered the world?
There is a song, “It’s the Impression that I Get,” by the group The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. In the lyrics they ask the question
Have you ever had the odds stacked up so high
You need a strength most don’t possess?
Or has it ever come down to do or die?
[when] You’ve got to rise above the rest?
I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested
I’d like to think that if I was, I would pass…
[I] Might be a coward, I’m afraid of what I might find out
We have been taking our daily gospels from the Farewell Discourse of John’s Gospel for the last few weeks. The Apostles were pretty scared at this point, but the gift of the Holy Spirit is coming. One of those gifts is fortitude or courage. We’ve also been reading from the Acts of the Apostles, it is as though a collection of short stories of courage.
This is the same spirit of courage and boldness that we have received from the Holy Spirit. In recent years, Pope Francis has warned of what he calls a certain reticence to reach out, to share and make the love of God real and visible. He puts it this way: ‘How often we are tempted to keep close to the shore! Yet the Lord calls us to put out into deep water and let down our nets…Boldness and apostolic courage are an essential part of mission…We need the Spirit’s prompting, lest we be paralyzed by fear and excessive caution… (Rejoice and Be Glad, 130-133)
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courageous people feel fear, but still take action, take the first steps, not worry about rejection and be unconcerned about looking foolish. Courage helps us to push out into deep water and not be afraid of what we might find out. It helps us to believe Jesus has conquered the world even if it doesn’t exactly seem that way.