Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Indescrible Pain of a Situational Depression

In today’s first reading, Job 3: 1-3, 11-17, 2023, Job curses the day that he was born. Sunk into a deep depression caused by the loss of everything—his children and his property—Job is so distraught that death seems to be the only solution to his indescribable pain.  “Why did I not perish at birth,” He asks the Lord. “Why is…life [given] to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly and are glad when they reach the grave: those whose path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in!”  Depression can be so painful that death seems like the only out.  In my deepest pain, I have said: “Lord, I understand why some people consider suicide.”  Job was at that point.

Both Job and the psalmist, in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 88, teach us how to bare our souls to the Lord  when we are in the pit of desolation: 

                                Let my prayer come before you;
                                Incline your ear to my call for help.
                                For my soul is surfeited with troubles
                                And my life draws near to the nether world.
                                I am numbered with those who go down into the pit;
                                I am a man [a woman, a young girl/boy] without strength.
                                My couch is among the dead,
                                Like the slain who lie in the grave,
                                …who are cut off from your care.
                                You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit,
                                Into the dark abyss....                             

When we are in such darkness, it is important not to minimize it. Others may do that in hopes of making us feel better. The fact is we are in pain.  That is what needs to be expressed in agonizing prayer (the way Jesus talked to His Father in Gethsemane). It also needs to be talked about with someone who is supportive and loving and doesn’t need to “fix” it.  Sometimes all the other can do is hold our hand. I read a book recently of a man suffering a serious situational depression. Besides seeing a professional counselor, what most helped him was the person who visited him daily and simply, with his permission, massaged his feet--that connection was the only connection he felt. The friend remained silent as he lovingly did the foot massage. He did not offer meaningless platitudes. He was supportive, as Mary was beneath the cross of Jesus, where she shared her Son’s powerlessness.

What do I do when  someone I love is suffering a darkness that I am powerless to remove?  Am I willing to be there without trying to “fix” it?  Or, do I stay away because I do not want to feel powerless with the person in a pit so deep that the solution  is out of reach at the moment?             

Monday, September 29, 2014

A True Disciple of the Lord

Today we celebrate the feast day of  the archangels, Sts. Raphael, Michael and Gabriel.  The Gospel, John 1: 47-51,  recalls Nathanael’s call to follow Jesus. As Nathanial approaches Jesus, the Lord says of him: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”  If I approach Jesus, what might Jesus say of me? Am I as single-hearted, as pure of heart as Nathanial was?  Would Jesus say: “Here is a true disciple of My Father?”

Nathanial is taken aback that Jesus knew Him that well? “How do you know me,” He asked Jesus. And Jesus responds: “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  Yes, Jesus sees us under “the fig trees” of our lives, as well. He knows us through and through just as He knew Nathanial. This Gospel story ends with the Lord reminding  Nathanial that he will see greater things than he’s already seen, that is, he will see  the “heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” 

Was it Nathaniel’s lack of duplicity that gave him the clarity to eventually  “see the heaven opened and angels of God ascending and descending”?  A friend of mine, once told me that, in a very dense fog, she saw an angel  pushing the fog aside so she could see to drive. When she was in an emergency room, unable to breathe because of severe asthmatic attacks, she saw an angel sitting beside her keeping her calm. Was it that she, too, was so steadfast in her faith, so focused on the Lord and the things of God, on doing His will above all, that prepared her for such encounters?
What drives me? To what do I tenaciously cling?

Friday, September 26, 2014

God's Work within Me

Today’s readings, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11 and Luke 9: 18-22, are breathtaking. Verses 11-12 of Ecclesiastes reads:  
“What advantage has the workers from their toil? I have considered the task
 that God has appointed for them to be busied about. God has made everything 
appropriateto its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without humans
 ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done”
 (inclusive language used by me). 

Notice the incredible humility of God in hiding from us the awesome work that the Holy One does in each one of us and in our lives every single day, from the beginning to the end of our lives!  Note, also, that it is God who “has appointed” for you and me what we are “to be busied about” while here on earth a short while.  And not only that, our Creator “has made everything [in your life and mine] appropriate to its time”.  Wow! How can I mistake that I belong to the Lord, that I have been created for His purposes? Am I willing to surrender the right to myself to God to be used for His eternal purposes in whatever way and wherever He wills?

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God “has put the timeless into our hearts.”  The Gospel enlightens us concerning this in the Son of God taking on human flesh.  Jesus tells the apostles that he will “suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”   God, in human form, will be killed and rise. Death will have no power over Him. With and in Jesus, we, too, will not be destroyed by death, any death. The Resurrection—the timeless--is in us, just as it was in Jesus. Yes, we are made in God’s likeness, in the likeness of Christ.
That means, that, through the power of Christ in me, I can resurrect from sin into holiness, from deceit into truth, from weakness into strength, from stupidity into wisdom and on and on to the point of rising from my physical death into resurrected life in eternity when my life on this earth comes to an end!

Do I believe this? Do I live life with this knowledge in the forefront of my mine? Do my human behaviors radiate both the divine and the human transformed by grace?  Do I, in truth, believe that resurrection is applicable, as well, to everything, to every one of my experiences to the very end of my life when I, too, leave this physical body?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Authored to do God's Will

Today’s Scripture readings, Proverbs 30: 5-9 and Luke 9:1-6, both speak of trusting the Lord. The author of Proverbs asks the Lord to “give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; lest, being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” In the Gospel Jesus sends His apostles out to preach the Good News, giving “them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, …to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” He then says to them: “Take nothing”  [with you]…neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”

Wow! Trust, trust, trust that God will provide.  I have a tendency to over prepare for everything, leaving nothing to chance, nothing to God’s power, really. I want no surprises, yet God is full of surprises and full of power. His grace is abundant and He always goes ahead of us to prepare the way. Where is my faith when I over prepare, when I hold back because “I’m not ready,” “I have not done enough research,” “I do not have this degree or that degree; I’m too limited.”

Jesus sent the 12 apostles forth to proclaim the Kingdom, to heal diseases, to cast out demons. Jesus gave them power and authority. Jesus also gives you and me power and authority whenever we are invited to go forth out of our comfort zones. Do I believe this? Do I act on faith when the Spirit beckons? Or, when the pastor of my parish or a parishioner asks me to get involved, do I say, “No, I’m not ready for that.”  When someone out the blue calls me up and says: Will you do such and such, do I say, “No, I don’t think I can do that,” when the disbelief is a hidden fear that God will not provide me with “the food I need”  to do that task?

Does Jesus walk away saddened by my refusal to trust, to believe?