Courage under fire

First Reading: Jeremiah 26:11-16,24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 69
Gospel: Matthew 14:1-12

Courage. A trait that all our great heroes of the past and present have. The dictionary defines this as: "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear." (source: dictionary.com) Think about who some of your favorite heroes are. Perhaps its St. Paul, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr, Joe Montana, etc. Didn't they all possess this trait of courage that we all admire so much. I will be the first to admit that courage is not exactly radiating from me all the time, but when it does I know that God is very present and is the source of this courage. I also realize that when I am not filled with courage, it is because I let fear get the better of me. Fear has a way of crippling us and causing us to not be able to act in situations when we are called to let the Lord lead us to courageous acts. I believe that it is in these moments that we are severely lacking in trust of the Lord and His power.

In the readings today, we have two examples of great courage. In the cases of Jeremiah and John the Baptist there are two very different outcomes, which are important to take note of. When the prophet Jeremiah was brought before the princes and the people, the priests and prophets of that time asked that he be put to death. Pretty scary situation if you are in Jeremiah's shoes (or sandals), so how does Jeremiah respond? With courage. He says “It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city all that you have heard. Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the LORD your God, so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right." Wow, listen to that! He does not cower, does not shrink away, doesn't say "oh, I was just kidding with you guys." No, he proclaims the Lord's message even more and says do whatever you want with me. Can you imagine the amount of trust that Jeremiah must have had in God during this time? I pray for that kind of trust every day.

Now in the gospel today we see a hero of mine, John the Baptist who is in prison for having the courage to speak against the union of Herod the tetrarch and Herodias. This statement by John does not sit well with Herodias and ultimately leads to his beheading. We are not told how John reacted during this time, but from hearing about him in other readings and knowing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit", I have no doubts in my mind that even to the end John was courageous. John the Baptist was not afraid to serve the Lord and to give of himself totally to the glory of God.

I think that we see from these two examples that courage can have different outcomes on us, sometimes they are good, as was the case of Jeremiah who wasn't put to death in this instance; or sometimes they are bad, as in the case of John the Baptist. Good or bad, when acting courageously, we are serving the Lord and allowing His will to be done in us. As we see from both examples having courage takes a lot of trust in the Lord, I pray that we all have that trust and lack of fear when being called to be courageous for the glory of God.

Lord, we thank you for your word today and for the example of your great servants Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Let us learn from their example of being courageous and trusting for your glory. Lord, let us serve you in all that we do and let you will be done in our lives. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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