THE GIFT OF COURAGE: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. JOSEPH THE WORKER
Was Jesus ever in an airplane? Yes! How? The flight into Egypt. One virtue that is very clear in the life of St. Joseph is the virtue of courage, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He was a man of great courage, who in spite of the unclear circumstances, continued to love and accept Mary and Jesus. He was a man of courage to believe the angel’s message. He was a man of courage to take the child and run to Egypt. He was a real man in every sense of the word, being a protector and a provider. He worked very hard to provide for his family and today we celebrate him as a courageous worker.
This same virtue is seen in our readings of today. The post resurrection atmosphere was an atmosphere of fear and courage. Indeed, we fear what we do not understand. In the first reading, we see the disciples, after being miraculously released from the prison cell, were not afraid to return to the temple and start preaching again. In the end, it was the captain and the officials who were afraid to arrest them. There is something contagious about courage. It was the courage of the early church that made people believe them, a courage that led many of them to martyrdom.
In the Gospel, we see a man who grew from fear to courage, namely Nichodemus. He started as a man who sneaked to visit Jesus at night, to the man who insisted that Jesus must be given a hearing before He can be condemned, to the man who participated in the burial of Jesus. Jesus continues to speak to him and He speaks to us. It is love that made Him come to die for us, in order to save us. If He was afraid of dying, we would not have been saved. Nichodemus was visiting Jesus at night and Jesus speaks to him about light and darkness. It is those who do evil who hate the light and avoid it, so that they will not be exposed. But the person who lives by the truth comes out in the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.
We do not possess this courage naturally. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and that is why Jesus spoke to Nichodemus about being born again of water and the Holy Spirit. The disciples never went out freely, until the Holy Spirit came upon them. Sometimes we know what is the right thing to do, but we are afraid to do it. Unfortunately, God does not call cowards to work for Him. God chose Joseph, because he was a real man, a man of courage, a hard-working man. All the saints are people of courage.
Indeed, nobody can do good without courage. Sometimes, our fears can be very silly. Sometimes we are afraid of being seen praying. Sometimes we do not work hard because we are afraid of failure. We may have great ideas, but we keep them in because of fear. In our examination of conscience, we often think of what evil things we have done, but we sometimes do not think of the good things we have failed to do. Research has shown that on their death-beds, most people do not regret so much about the evil things they have done. People regret more about the good things they could have done, which they failed to do, mostly because of one fear or another. God has given us many gifts, talents and abilities. Satan infests us with the fear that makes us keep them all in. We can be like a pregnant woman who is afraid of giving birth. Someone said that courage is not the absence of fear. The complete absence of fear is mental illness. Courage is the ability to do that which we are afraid to do. Only the Holy Spirit can give us this gift. Through our work, we participate in God’s creation. He has gifted us more than we can imagine. You will never know what you can do, until you try. Sometimes, all you need is the first step. Do not be afraid!!!