Boldness and Passion

Jonah and the Whale

Guest post by Shane Dwyer, Director of the Catholic Enquiry Centre, Australia.

These days I am not always as bold and passionate about my faith as I would like to be. It has nothing to do with recent revelations about the criminal activity of some in our midst. Those things disappoint and upset me but I learned a long time ago that all human beings are capable of great evil – even those who on some level aspire to do good. Instead, it is the constant sniping and the unkind and judgmental ways in which people interact with one another that can keep me quiet.

Recently I was at the barber having my hair cut. As a way of making conversation the barber asked me the inevitable question, ‘what work do you do?’ Suddenly I was very aware of the line of men sitting and waiting for their turn in the chair, listening in on the conversation. I found myself thinking ‘can I describe my work without mentioning the Church at all?’ This was quickly followed by ‘can I be bothered putting up with their cracks about child abuse and their snide comments about the many Catholics I know (priests included) who have never and would never harm anyone?’

Fear and potential discomfort can keep us quiet. Resisting these is the subject matter of Gaudete et Exsultate 129 – 139. Some relevant passages from this section follow.

“Holiness… is boldness, an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world. To allow us to do this, Jesus himself comes and tells us once more, serenely yet firmly: “Do not be afraid” (Mk 6:50). “I am with you always, to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20)… Look at Jesus. His deep compassion reached out to others. It did not make him hesitant, timid or self-conscious, as often happens with us…

Let us acknowledge our weakness, but allow Jesus to lay hold of it and send us too on mission… Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations. We can resist leaving behind a familiar and easy way of doing things…

Complacency is seductive; it tells us that there is no point in trying to change things, that there is nothing we can do, because this is the way things have always been and yet we always manage to survive. By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil…

Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises.”

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