Monday, June 28, 2010

Losing it...

Courage is connected with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, coming over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things. But none of these daredevil acts comes from the centre of our being. They all come from the desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.

Spiritual courage is something completely different. It is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It asks of us the willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life...

The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record - that's what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.

The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
All too often, I think, we Christians are the last to realise that what society regards as misfortune may be for us the greatest blessing. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) spell this out for us, and yet we consistently don't get it. We interpret grief as something to be "got over", poverty as "an attack from the devil." Doing so, I think we risk missing the blessings Jesus has promised us - cf. Luke 18:29-30.

We need to have the courage of our convictions, we Franciscans especially. Our faithfulness is not to the world's values, nor even Christ's, but to Jesus himself. We cannot go on looking for the world's rewards, judging ourselves by the world's standards. We have to be happy being a bit strange, raggedy even, the kind of people who get misunderstood, but without rancour and without affectation. Our only rewards are the ones we have been promised. This is the way that Jesus took, and we can only follow, surely?

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