Although The Good Neighborhood does not endorse any single religion, we appreciate any message dedicated to the greater good as well as the lifetime of contributions to community and writing of Monsignor David M. Gallivan, Pastor of Holy Cross Church on Buffalo’s Lower West Side (345 Seventh St), who offers us a weekly Sunday Sermon.
By Msgr. David M. Gallivan, Pastor, Holy Cross Church
Back in high school I read To Kill a Mockingbird, a 1950’s bestseller that was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck a few years later. In the novel, Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a small Southern town, sends his son Jem to read every day to an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, who was dying from cancer. She refused to take the morphine ordered by her doctor because she did not want to die indebted to anyone.
The night she died, Mr. Finch told Jem why he sent him to read to her. He said, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of you getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you are licked before you begin, but you begin anyway. It’s when you are in pain, when you are suffering and you keep going on. That’s what real courage is. Mrs. Dubose was the most courageous and bravest person I ever knew.”
Too often, we look for bravery and courage in all the wrong places: in wars, street gangs, power, or physical or economic superiority. We miss the courage of simple and ordinary people who carry on in the midst of life’s worst situations. The seven Maccabeus brothers and their mother in Jewish scripture suffered torture and death for their refusal to violate God’s law. Today’s scriptural lesson is not simply that they endured suffering but that they endured it for the sake of those they loved. Their bravery seems beyond our own. But consider your own bravery when you seemed to go beyond your own strengths for someone in your family or in a situation when many might just give up.
As millions of deserving families endure a $36 dollar monthly reduction of their food assistance allowances, I know of the struggles of caring, hardworking families who will not give up. I am humbled by the young mothers who often clean our church and the Parish Center, learn English at the Belle Community Center across the street and struggle for a GED to qualify for food assistance in a jobless environment. As the powerful decision-makers in Washington valiantly attack the debt crisis at the weakest link of the social chain, Atticus Finch would probably offer to his son the example of the quiet courage of these young women who bravely “keep going on” even when they “feel licked” before they begin.