If you know the story of the Wizard of Oz, then you must remember the character of the Cowardly Lion. The Cowardly Lion feels that since he is the “King of the Beasts” he should be able to do anything that he thinks is right. The lion, however, is often paralyzed from doing what he knows is right because of fear. He is ashamed that he feels fear at all. We can experience much the same thing. We may know what the right thing to do is but we may be too afraid to do it because of fear of judgement, persecution or harm.
Because such fear is unavoidable, it is important that we cultivate the virtue of courage. The two readings today speak of the importance of having the courage to do the right thing in the face of fear. The first reading tells us the story of David and Goliath. All the soldiers in the army of Israel are too afraid to fight the enormous warrior Goliath from the opposing Philistine army. Only David has the courage to face his fear and do the right thing by battling Goliath. In the gospel we see that Jesus also has the courage to do the right thing in the face of opposition. Jesus knows that it is right to heal the man with the withered hand. He also knows that there will be consequences if He acts. He will be judged by the Pharisees who say that by healing this man Jesus would be breaking the law - as they saw it - by working on the Sabbath. Perhaps Jesus also knew that they would use His action as a reason to have His put to death. Jesus has the great courage to face these fears, do the right thing and heal the man. Without courage, we would rarely be able to do what we know is right.
Trusting in God gives us the strength to courageously face difficult situations. David is quite clear about the source of his courage to face Goliath: trust in God. David is able to overcome His fear because he is certain God will protect him. Today we are witnessing a powerful example of people facing their fears and doing the right thing by trusting in God. In Washington D.C., ten of thousands of people have gathered today for the annual March for Life. They are marching in very cold, inclimate weather. These individuals are powerfully reminding society of the dignity of all human life from conception to its natural end. They are standing up for the fact that before birth a child is human being deserving protection and that abortion is wrong because it is the taking of an innocent life. It can be difficult to speak this truth today. Speaking it can evoke a strong, sometimes hostile, reaction. Those marching today, therefore, show great courage by doing the right thing and standing up for the dignity of human life even in the face of the fear of consequences. Those participating in the march rely on God for their courage to do so. In their prayers - which is the backbone of the event - they put their trust in God, knowing that He will take care of them. When we too trust in God, He gives us the courage to do the right thing in the face of fear.
Eventually the Cowardly Lion learns an important lesson. He learns that true courage does not mean never feeling afraid. On the contrary, true courage is doing the right thing in the face of fear. Feeling fear is natural and unavoidable. The lion realizes this, and pushes himself outside his comfort zone, no longer allowing himself to be paralyzed by fear. Today we can ask ourselves a question: “is there some course of action that I know is right but which fear is preventing me from taking?” Let us ask God to give us the gift of courage to overcome our fears and do the right thing.