Courage

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“To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.”

- David Whyte, Consolations

“Both choices are dreadful. The choice to say something is risky, and the choice of saying nothing is risky. Courage is having the clarity to see the two bad choices. There is no safe path. But what you do know is that if you don’t speak up, everything will stay the same.”

- Margaret Heffernan, Ted Radio Hour, “Courage,” (Dec 12, 2014)


Ordinary Times

I can’t help but shake this theme of “courage” over the past week. In just the past week, it snuck into my life when I read the first quote from David Whyte’s excellent book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. Driving home from Richmond earlier this week, I opened Overcast and chose to listen to the TED Radio Hour. The episode entitled, “Courage” beckoned to me, after having it stored on my phone for over a year.

Consider this week’s readings in the Catholic Church. As we begin Ordinary Time with the end of the Christmas season, we restart the Gospels before heading into Lent. It’s a thing. This week’s Daily Readings take place at the start of the Gospel of Mark. In my Bible at home, this section is entitled (in all caps), “The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry.” The reading for Wednesday (Mark 3:1-6) is the healing of a man with a “withered hand.” Jesus heals him on the Sabbath and the Pharisees are outraged. The day did not matter to Jesus. He observed the rest of the Sabbath, but he did not view healing and helping another person as “work.” He simply viewed the issue differently and so he acted.

When Mary asked Jesus to fill the jars with wine, she meant something closer to a massive bucket than a mason jar or a pitcher. I saw this jar on display in Cana during my pilgrimage to Israel in 2015.

When Mary asked Jesus to fill the jars with wine, she meant something closer to a massive bucket than a mason jar or a pitcher. I saw this jar on display in Cana during my pilgrimage to Israel in 2015.

As I reflected on this Gospel reading, I tried to imagine Jesus and how he had this courage. The funny thing is that he needed a little prodding to get started. Though only found in the Gospel of John, the story that begins Jesus’ ministry is the changing of water into wine at the wedding of Cana. Jesus does not make this call, but instead, his mother:

“When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
[And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”

-John 2:3-4

Mary practically guilts Jesus into it with the next verse: “His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”” His courage comes from someone else who believes in him. The story unfolds with Jesus changing the water into wine, but more importantly, the first of many miracles in his public ministry. This reluctant beginning is hardly a manifesto for what Jesus sees for the future of his ministry. It is simply a starting point, and the beginning of a platform for him to build followers, find his voice and affect change. 

Modern Times

We hear about courage a lot at the start of the year with New Year's Resolutions. For some time now, I’ve imagined starting a blog and reflecting on my own life experiences and, in particular, the intersection of my faith with the new media I create and experience each week. I cannot say I have a clear manifesto yet, other than that it may take different forms: written word, spoken word, video, and definitely some music. I can also tell you that my journey this year is a bit unclear. I just branched out to begin this small business “Greg Thompson Media” (for more info on that, click around), and now I’m applying to graduate school programs at Divinity Schools across the country.

What I can definitely tell you is that this blog will be courageous. I do not intend to shy away from topics that I know little about, and I hope that whatever dialogue is started only helps me to better know myself and and my faith. Pop in when you can, let me know your thoughts online or even better, next time we grab a drink. This will be a place for me to connect faith to my experiences, and if anything, I hope it is the same for you.

  • What does courage look like in your life? Can you see two bad choices?
  • Who gives you courage?
  • Has your hour come? Can you afford for everything you see to stay the same?