During World War II, two roommates at the University of Nebraska split up to room with two other women. Nothing unusual about that except that their two new roommates were Japanese Americans attending one of the few colleges nationally that would even accept them. Kathleen and Zelma thought they might help their new friends find acceptance. Their risky gesture showed the kind of moral courage that Jesus demands in today’s Gospel.
I grew up knowing that Kathleen was extraordinary because she was my mother. Only much later did I realize how extraordinary her actions were at a time when the government had interned thousands of innocent people for their heritage. I thought about Mother’s characteristically courageous action as I meditated on John’s Gospel because it suggests how ordinary people can live this reading.
As a child of the ‘60’s, I grew up watching the Civil Rights movement on TV, marveling at the moral courage of people my age who faced down the police dogs in Birmingham. As I read more, I realized that Dr. Martin Luther King could unleash his nonviolent forces because he took Jesus seriously, just as Mother did. Take Jesus seriously to fight for Gospel values and sooner or later you will do something risky because that’s how moral courage operates. But failing to show such courage carries an even greater risk – loss of eternal life.
The beauty of the uncompromising demand of today’s Gospel is that we can all meet it. The poor, the despised, the immigrant, the homeless, etc. are in every community. Reaching out to them can take moral courage, if only the courage to leave our comfort zones to live our Gospel values. Each of us can find small but important ways to lose our lives in order to save them.
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