Take Courage, Have Hope

In Today’s Readings we hear the story of St. John the Baptist. Whenever I hear this story, I can’t help but imagine the gruesomeness of his beheading. I am not one that can handle the sight of blood, surgery, or wounds. AKA I am not and never will be called to any medical profession. Although I struggle to stomach those sights, I’ve realized that it is important to not flinch away. As faithful Catholics, we are being put under a microscope right now. Like John the Baptist, we are being asked for our heads. It’s completely normal in a time of trial, injustice, and serious sin to flinch away- to seriously look the other way out of fear.

How often do we do this? When we hear something tragic and horrible on the news, do we just turn off the tv or change the station? When someone shares with you their hardships, struggles, and sin, do you encounter them or turn away because it’s “too much to handle”. I’ll be blunt with you all. The injustices that have come to light in Christ’s Church today make it seriously hard to not flinch away, to not want to know details, and to look away due to the gruesomeness. But that is not the Gospel message. That is not what Christ would do.

In my fear of all things messy and dirty, my mind wanders to the face of one of the most beautiful women. A face full of wrinkles and compassion. The face of Mother Teresa comes to mind. When I was on a mission trip in Romania we entered the gypsy slums. A place of complete garbage, shacks, and children playing with trash. I remember the serious smell and how hard it was for me to breathe it in. I remember seeing these people in their town of debris and being told how many of them have lice and some have serious diseases.

At one point we were surrounded by a group of young girls. There was one smaller sister who was there and being picked on. She had to be around 4 or 5. years old. We were told not to touch anyone for our own health. I remember seeing this little girl get hit by her siblings and she started to cry. I walked over to the girls and using my body language, tried to tell them to stop hurting her. I clearly did not speak a word of Romanian. The little girl stretched out her arms to embrace me. In a split second I had a moment of fear- a moment of flinching away. But also a moment of grace. Mother Teresa’s face came to my mind and the thought of how many sick, dying,  and contagious people she had helped fearlessly. I automatically embraced this young girl. She cried in my arms as I held her tight and picked her up. I found out from the translator that her name was Esperanza, which means “Hope”.

I’m sharing this story with you because there are two things that are very needed in the faithful of the Church today. We are in dire need of following the example of St. John the Baptist. Following in his complete obedience to the Gospel and to his intimate relationship with Christ.  He is an example of heroic courage in facing one’s martyrdom. We are in need of the virtue of true COURAGE. The second virtue we need to cultivate is the virtue of HOPE. Esperanza embodied that to me. Wiping away her tears, while making the deliberate choice to not mind the strong stench I breathed as I embraced her. Rocking her in my arms as she slowly stopped crying, I made the choice to not care if I caught lice. I made the decision to not care that the nauseating smell would be stuck to my clothing and hair the rest of the day. I saw her and I loved her. Embracing others in the lowest of lows is what we are called to, especially today. We are called to respond to the needs of our Church, to be with those who are hurting and those who have been seriously horrifically wronged.  We are called to listen to them, hear them, and actively love them.
If we do not know these people personally, if we do not know how to handle the gruesomeness or the truth- we are called to pray in hope for their healing, for God’s justice and mercy, and for the future hope of our faithful people.

It is in the darkest and dirtiest places that we see the merciful face of Christ.  It is here that He does not flinch away, He encounters. He embraces His people in the bloodiest, most gruesome wounds and places.

It is going to take true courage and true hope to stay faithful to our relationships, our encounters, and our love for Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Take hope. Let’s love and listen to our hurting brothers and sisters. Let us not be ignorant or absent, but present in the Church’s need. Let us intentionally choose to not flinch away. Let us make the choice to pray for our leaders who have horrifically let us down. Let us pray for those who are hurting and in need of Christ’s healing and peace. Let us choose to encounter our brothers and sisters with true courage and true hope.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese