BE STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS (Joshua 1:7)

+ MOST REV. GEORGE JONATHAN DODO
Catholic Bishop of Zaria Diocese,
Nigeria

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

If we do not speak against evil, we will speak for evil when we remain silent in the face of it. Therefore, the world suffers today not because of the violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people. Evangelization is a weapon against evil. The mission of Christ was to conquer evil and indeed He defeated evil. The mission of every Christian in the spirit of the New Evangelization is to be an agent of perpetuating this defeat of evil in our society that sees evil as a way of life. To be able to carry out this mandate, the theme: “Be Strong and Very Courageous” comes to mind. Evangelization needs strong and very courageous evangelizers. In the Bible, courage is the opposite of fear. When God commands us to fear not, to be of good cheer and to have courage (Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6), He is always commanding against fear, which is the opposite of courage. Fear makes us to compromise the Gospel values. Courage shows the power of conviction and the strength of faith. The Gospel needs spirit filled people of courage and conviction for impact to be made. One who is defeated by fear cannot proclaim the Gospel. There was need for fear to be conquered that was why on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles to fill them with strength and courage so that they could bear witness to Christ and the Gospel with a courageous faith (Acts 2). To be strong and courageous does not mean that there are no moments of fear or that we will not be afraid. This would not be realistic. Instead, it means to press forward through the fear when we feel afraid. In fact, sometimes our knees will shake or our anxiety will rise. Our minds may even start racing away with all kinds of “what if” thoughts. But when this happens, that is when we need to let the word and the grace of God (who is the owner of the work) take over. Therefore, we have to plunge into the deep (Luke 5:4 – 11) through our fears and trust in Him. We have to trust God beyond our fears. St. Paul tells us, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). When we keep our focus on Him and trust in His word and the grace He provides, there is safety in Him. We have to always keep in mind that our Father has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). The Prophet Isaiah reassures us that “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). “Be not afraid!” These were the words of St. Pope John Paul 11 on 22nd October 1978 at St. Peter’s Square when he was elected the Roman Pontiff. In discussing this theme in the book Cross the Threshold of Hope, St. Pope John Paul 11 recalls these words as parts of the world as an exhortation to conquer fear in whatever situation the temporal world presents. Such courage is possible where there is faith in God’s love and mercy, as demonstrated in the Passion, death and Resurrection of Our Lord. “Be not afraid!” does not suggest that faith will prevent challenges and suffering. Rather, faith will sustain hope in the face of suffering and guard against despair. May God take away our fears and grant us a strong and courageous faith to fulfill the demands of evangelization in a society that is wounded with vices through Christ our Lord. Amen.

+ MOST REV. GEORGE JONATHAN DODO CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ZARIA DIOCESE, NIGERIA.

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