Courage or Fear? This is a question faced by firefighters virtually every time the tones sound and a dispatch comes in. Firefighters are recognized for their courage. Many of the calls that come in are “routine” medical assists, accidents or fires. That routine can change in a fraction of a second as any experienced fireifghter knows. Hence the demand for courage is always there for firefighters. Whether waking up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night or hastily wrapping up an equipment inspection midday firefighters can face an array of dangers in rapidly changing moments.
The picture of the firefighter on a roof, in a venting operation illustrates this point. There are numerous dangers to face, the height and pitch of the roof, smoke, heat, flames, the danger of the roof collapsing, the saws used to cut the opening…all illustrate SOME of the dangers that have to be faced IF the job at hand is to be done. The need for courage is experienced quickly and often repeatedly, on a single call. It leads to a basic point of firefighting: conquering the challenge. This is usually expressed in controlling and extinguishing the fire, the medical emergency or whatever crises is manifested.
The reality of facing fear and conquering the challenges of life is something I have observed and known, both as a firefighter, a clergyman, parent, or more simply a human. It is especially as Christians and particularly as Roman Catholics that privileged reality is being felt in mnay ways.
The second picture of a church in flames illustrates my point. There would be those who see this picture as a church being destroyed. In fear (or perhaps for some, in glee) they would wring their hands and lament (or applaud) the flames.
Once again in my own Diocese of Santa Rosa a new allegation of sexual abuse by a priest presents flames to be faced. The priest involved has sadly succumbed to fear and apparently fled to Mexico. This is very wrong, yet very human. Guilt, especially when compounded by a virtual witch-hunt mentality as commonly preached by our local paper, The Press Democrat, makes the demand for courage even more difficult. That dread and desire to flee is also being felt by many of the faithful.
The reality of fear is faced by many, in diverse fronts. The problems above are just one example. The fear may be more personal. Sickness, financial needs, family struggles, relationships, job or education demands, all are examples of fears we face in life. And for the individual confronted by the flames of their fears it can be as searing as standing on a roof needing to be vented amidst smoke and flames. So what is the answer, what is the solution?
I can only share what I have known to work, in the middle of a fire or whatever the fear might be. The answer is not a solution, but a Person, Christ Jesus. “THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE BUT PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR…FOR GOD DID NOT GIVE US A SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF POWER AND LOVE AND A SOUND MIND” { I John 4:18 & II Timothy 1:7}. We cannot be courageous except in a frightening situation. It is in those places we can reach out and know the arms of the Crucified about us. God will not allow anything to cross the path of the faithful that would separate us from His love. All things can be for our good and His Kingdom, if we persevere in loving, courageous faith {Romans 8}. In His Presence and Truth fears can and needs be faced and conquered.
Let’s look again at the picture of the church in flames. Is it a church destroyed? Or is it a Church consumed by the fire of God’s courageous love? A church in flames or a church that will know the power of the Resurrected One? Will we respond in courage or fear?