Fortunately, Pope Francis differs in his assessment of the necessity for courage in the spiritual life. The Holy Father counts it as an essential ingredient - in fact, he calls for it to be added first, saying:
"First: courage. The path to holiness takes courage. Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven is for those who have the courage to go forward."
In an address to the youth preparing to attend World Youth Day in 2015, Pope Francis challenged them to "Have the courage to be happy?"
Gosh - the courage to be holy, the courage to be happy. What is the Holy Father talking about?
The Pope went on to explain: “Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness, He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises.”
In the Pope's words, we find echoes of Jesus' exhortation in Matthew 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."
Holiness, and the true and lasting happiness that is its companion, makes difficult demands on us - demands which are often counter-cultural. It takes courage to take up the demands of the Gospel and choose the narrow path. In examining my initial reaction to this ingredient, I have come to appreciate that there is a certain strength and courage necessary to live out even the simplest demands of a life in Christ: and that the gift of courage is one that comes from the Lord himself.
Today I ask the Lord for the courage to take the following small steps towards holiness:
- to rise early to meet the Lord in prayer each day.
- to listen to others with an open heart, without judgement or condemnation, and without becoming defensive, even when they are pointing out shortcomings in me.
- to forgive myself for my own failures
- to be prudent and temperate in my decisions, without becoming a rigid, self-righteous boor.
- to remain hopeful and peaceful in the midst of the barrage of bad news which seems to flood my senses.
- to look beyond the struggles of this life, to see eternity as my true goal and home.
What about you? Ask the Lord in prayer to reveal the areas in your life where you need courage to move forward towards him, confident that he will hear your prayer and provide all that you need.
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