Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22, 14-23, 56.

It takes a courageous heart to express agape love. Many people want to express such love for others, but they lack the courage to do so. Courage cannot be separated from love. When we say YES to love, we say YES to death. Thus, if we are not ready to die, we cannot love completely. The readings of today’s liturgy reveal the interconnected relationship between courage and love.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is the third song of the Servant of the Lord. The Servant of the Lord did not hide his face from shame and spittle. He was not rebellious and did not attempt to flee or escape from his destiny. He gave his back to those who struck him and his cheeks to those who pulled out the beard. I strongly suspect that it was love that gave the Servant of the Lord the courage to withstand such humiliations and pain. Christ, as we read in the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians, humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Death on a cross is a gruesome and excruciating experience of a painful departure from earthly life. Nevertheless, with humility and obedience rooted in a deep love and spurred on by courage, Christ was willing to drink the chalice prepared for him. The Passion narrative from Luke describes how Christ triumphantly entered Jerusalem, knowing that death awaited him there. The courageous love of Christ in the redemption of humankind is something every missionary should strive to emulate. 

In our Congregation, difficult missions often surface and the need for missionaries to serve in such missions may become necessary. Only courageous love can inspire missionaries to volunteer to be sent to such missions or to accept such an assignment when sent. Christ has sent us to proclaim the good news to the poor; we ought to open ourselves to the Spirit of Christ who will fill us with the courage to respond positively to such calls.  Let us reflect on the following words from Jean Anouilh’s screenplay for the 1947 film, Monsieur Vincent: You will find out that Charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile. It is not enough to give soup and bread. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor, always smiling and good-humored. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting master you will see. And the uglier and the dirtier they will be the more unjust and insulting, the more love you must give them. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them.

                                Fr. Augustine Abiagom CM (Province of Nigeria)