Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 5, 2004
Warm up before entering spiritual arena
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
In order to live in real courage we must die before we die.
When Pilate says to him: "Don't you know that I have power over you, power to take your life or to save it." Jesus answers: "You have no power over me whatsoever. Nobody takes my life, I give it over freely." In essence, Pilate is threatening a man already dead. No big threat. Jesus had already undergone the agonia. In great anguish he had given his life over freely the night before and so he is ready for whatever awaits him.
We see something similar in Oscar Romero, martyred in 1980. When Romero was first named an archbishop, he was a good, sincere man, but also someone who lived in timidity and fear.
However as he met with the poor and let them baptize him with the truth he began to experience a certain agonia, namely, it became clearer and clearer to him that he was on a collision-course which would eventually force him to choose between backing away from the truth so as to save his own life or speaking the truth and being killed for it.
Understandably, he began to sweat a certain blood, a certain spiritual and emotional lather began to warm his spiritual muscles.
At a point, he had to speak the truth and, in doing so, assured his own death. But he had readied himself. He had already suffered his agonia in Gethsemane and could now act with courage.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself; easily said, but mostly our lives are dominated by it.
We may be sincere and good, but we're also fearful. Fearful of pain, of losing loved ones, of misunderstanding, of opposition, of sickness, of shame, of discomfort of all kinds and ultimately of death.
Deep inside us is a powerful pressure to do whatever it takes to ensure our own lives, safety, and security.
And so it's not on the basis of nature that we give our lives away or move towards real courage.
Like an athlete preparing for a tough contest, we must train for this. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, we must die before we die, we must experience a courage-inducing agonia, so that, already having given it all away, we no longer live in the paralyzing fear that someone might take it from us.
( The sixth in a seven-part Lenten series.)
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