By Nimmi Candappa
A recent article described the confusion a schoolgirl felt when her two friends had stood by quietly as she was bullied at school, not coming to her aid. It was only much later as an adult that she realised her friends were simply scared they would be the next victims. We too would be aware of many situations reported on the news when a victim was attacked amidst a watching yet passive crowd. We ourselves at some point might face such situations in life, when fear of the consequences can prevent us from taking a particular action. To stand up for truth, to stand up against injustice to defend those without a voice – at risk to our own wellbeing – we need to be moved by the Spirit of God, be emboldened by the Spirit’s gift of courage or fortitude. The gift of courage helps us see beyond our own needs, it impels us forward to act for justice and truth, even when our instinct is to retreat to safety, to take the easy option and mind our own business.
This week we celebrate the Feast Day of St Mary Magdalene, known to have courageously stood by the cross as Jesus died, even while others fled; willing to be known as friend and supporter of Jesus, a condemned criminal. St Eugene de Mazenod, too, gives us many examples of courage, in particular when he fought against the clerical norm of preaching in the formal French of the educated. Risking the hostility of his peers, he chose to preach instead in the local dialect, in order to better connect with the poorer French communities. He showed courage when he left behind more affluent life choices, to offer his life completely to God. He showed courage to send his fledgling Oblates to meet the pastoral needs in other parts of the world, while yet not knowing how he could manage his own local pastoral needs.
As members of the De Mazenod family, St Eugene urges us to ‘leave nothing undared for the Kingdom of God’. In this next fortnight, consider ways to show courage. Know of neighbours struggling through this ongoing pandemic? Dare to reach out, even if they are not your type, or you feel awkward. See injustice at work? Dare to stand with those under attack. Tempted to smudge the truth, because the world does? Dare to remain truthful, no matter the cost. Comfortably well-off? Dare to share, until it hurts. Love God, just not publicly? Dare to place God first, front and centre.