In the framework of Independence Day, we talked about courage. Courage is not all about bravery and heroics. It is a deep attribute of living things – humans and all the earth’s creatures. The word “courage” comes from Latin, through old French, from the word for “heart” (cor, in French, coeur). In literature and medicine, the heart was thought to be the residence of all that makes you what you are – the soul, if you will. Neurobiologists today tell us that it is the brain, but the latent poet in all of us feels it is the heart.
Ezekiel had the courage of a prophet. Prophets speak truths that many are not ready to hear, placing themselves “in the line of fire,” meaning brutal criticism, or perhaps a sword or bullet like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Oscar Romero. All of the Biblical prophets come in for scorn and rejection. God charged Ezekiel to speak to the people of Judah about their unfaithfulness. And when he [that is God] spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; (Ez 2:2)
Jesus’ courage is the strength to go gently into the face of adversity, disarmed. Followers are astounded by his words – not his muscles, weapons, or posse of disciples. He was a radical but not a street fighter, despite the reality of brute force in his everyday life. Jesus-courage remains counter-cultural in our times. We often invest in winning, triumphing over circumstances or “the other,” being right. We equate that victory with courage. We have to learn (and teach our children) about the courage of compromise and co-existence with love and respect.
An original meaning of courage was “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, it morphed into being heroic, beyond the genuine human selves that we are. We need heroes, but let’s remember that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, what we’re feeling, and our experiences (good and bad) are the definitions of courage. Heroics are about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. Courage is a God-given quality of a living, beating heart – to stand beside our very human fears, and be, in truth, our very human selves.
Peace be with you,