The word of the day was courage. Twenty-five years ago my sister passed away suddenly of meningitis. She died less than 24 hours after diagnosis. This is also the Feast Day of the North American Jesuit martyrs and their two companions. I did not value that then as much as I do now. My sister’s courage and grace in the midst of her short illness was amazing, much like the martyrs. They were men on a mission that became a new mission–one of dying a good death, just like my dear sibling. Her life was going amazingly well when in a heartbeat everything changed at the age of 26. Whatever plans she had were never realized. Now my turn comes to give up the mission that I thought had been given me and live into a good death. Courage is needed for the journey.
I am on vacation right now, visiting the only capital city of the ten provinces I had yet to see. I have never been to Victoria and think it is a great place but today after mass we escaped to the wilderness. The homily at early mass was exactly what I needed. The message was that sometimes even when the mission we are doing seems godly and important, God may have an even greater purpose for us. We must have courage when this happens and trust God. This is the task before me right now.
i come back to the 7-day Ignatian retreat that I went on in 2014 where each retreatant had to write a prayer of offering that they could later read aloud at mass. I prepared mine and decided to read it. Much to my great surprise, I asked for courage for the road ahead. This startled me as the word was not in my written text. I have understood now that the Holy Spirit out those words in my mouth as a gift. I would need courage for what was coming and I knew that somehow. I just did not know at the time what it would be. I wondered if it would be for my father’s death but it would turn out to be my own illness. Courage has come in various ways, even when I doubted that all shall be well. God has been faithful.
Today was a day of courage–and beauty. It began at 6:15 am with a post on my Facebook page by someone calling me a horrible name in response to the scholarship fund set up in my name. Amongst all the accolades on the post, he trashed my name and in his woundedness, said mean-spirited things about me. These are his truth but they are not the Truth. Years ago we had spoken and even though I did not agree with him, I asked his forgiveness. I thought he had given it to me but apparently I was wrong. In the post, he told me he would never forgive me for what I had done. He needs a scapegoat, I suppose, and I had hoped that asking forgiveness might move him forward. Clearly, I was incorrect. I do not allow such hatred on my FB page, whether it is directed at me or someone else so I took the post down and blocked him. I sent him a message telling him I was sorry that he still was so hurt by me. As I walked today, I lifted him up and prayed for his healing.
Talking about it with my travelmate, I confessed that I knew not everybody loves me. Haters are going to hate and I have people like that in my life because, as Brene Brown says, I have been in the arena and not just in the stands so therefore I have a target on my back. I have not chosen to live quietly or trying to please everybody all the time. This has caused pain and animosity. This man is one of several people who is not one of my fans. He will not be sad when I leave this world. I am at peace with that. He has every right to his opinion, and others would agree with him. This day started with a lot of humility on my part. I also had to muster up a lot of courage, knowing that everyone who had posted a comment would have received his hateful words. He is entitled to his opinion and yet it hurt to see hate on my page.
My thoughts then turned to my sister and her dying moments. She was so gracious until she slipped into a coma. That day was so surreal for our family. God worked so many miracles for which I am incredibly grateful. God did not save her from dying, but her death was not the end of her story. God made her life and mine, and I suspect countless others new in ways we never dreamed of. As I watched the sunset on the beach tonight, I felt her with me, granting the end to a perfect day.
Great courage is needed for my own new adventure, one so different than what I thought it would be living out. Today’s homily reminded me that God alone knows the plans for me, plans to bring peace and not disaster. I am on day two of medications that are giving me energy and reducing some discomfort I was having. The side effects mean I have not slept well for two nights but I am energized anyway. I was not happy about taking them and I may not continue the whole dose but for now I am embracing courage and trusting that this seems to work for now.
The North American martyrs believed they were doing God’s work and I must too. The future is uncertain; I try my best to stay in the present moment. I desire to serve God however I am needed and to continue to learn the lessons I need before I leave here. Some will be lessons of humility like the ones I faced this morning. Others will be ones that stretch me such as taking these new medications. Some will be to open my heart further and embrace even more beauty as I did today, walking in the forest, watching wildlife at play, having good conversations, eating delicious food, sinking my bare feet into the ocean sand, listening to the crashing waves, and witnessing a spectacular sunset. One particular image runs through my head. As we walked along Whiffin Spit, we came across a seal in the water with seagulls flying overhead. I suspect that the birds did not want the seal to eat all the fish and divebombed to let the hungry bully move off so they could eat. I watched in amazement as these little creatures join together to push off to push away the bigger bully. The birds needed courage to act together for what they needed. We could all use this valuable lesson in life.
When was a time in your life when you needed courage because you experienced a drastic change?
What could be accomplished in your life if you joined with others?
Seer-of-the-Future, you know the plans you have for us. May we surrender our will to yours with deep trust and courage. Amen.