My friends; the psalmist prays the prayer of our hearts today in our human, Christian experience of life, “May your faithful love be upon us, as we place all our hope in you.” Our faith tells us that we have “a high priest” as spoken of in Hebrews, our second reading today, who has suffered everything that we have, so truly understands what we walk with in our lives. Jesus, having taken on fully our human experience knows what it feels like to lose loved ones, to be misunderstood, and to be lonely—that is why he is so perfect to turn to.
When I reflect on the psalmist’s prayer today; I find myself thinking that this very prayer, in similar words is the prayer of my brother and his family as they stand and watch, support and give Stephanie all that they can, “May your faithful love be upon us, upon her, as we place all our hope in You.” This extended family of mine have known God’s “faithful love” in the support and prayers of many family members and friends, of you, some known and many, unknown, but faithful to the task of supporting a “sister for the journey” and her family in their time of need.
I know I have personally been comforted in this time of healing for Stephanie with the queries of people, my friends and acquaintances asking, “How is Stephanie doing?” When I talk with my brother, I let him know of your “faithful” support and he is so grateful and says, “Well, it’s working!” And as the writer to the Hebrews says today, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace, and receive mercy and favor, and find help in our time of need.”
Another piece of my week was to spend time thinking about a new NOVA presentation on Public TV on Addiction that high-lighted the opioid crisis in this country. The piece was filled with heart-breaking stories of lives ruined and lost due to addiction to pain-killing drugs that were prescribed for people’s pain and that advanced over time to be drugs to satisfy an ever-growing need for the drug itself.
With the addiction, the ability to make good decisions for self, family and the worthwhile things in life evaporates before the staggering physical need for the drug. The film talked of the drugs, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl and the ever more deadly effects of each. Those who were able to turn their lives around, with help, as one doesn’t do this alone, the story made clear, no doubt prayed words similar to, “May your faithful love be upon me, as I place all my hope in You.”
A compelling part of this story was to realize that addiction of any kind, whether due to drugs—opioids and alcohol, to eating, gambling, whatever it might be happens to ordinary people. People don’t wake up one morning, as one man said, “wishing to be an addict!”
Another compelling piece for me was the passion that several of the doctors interviewed had around the whole notion of restructuring how this country deals with addictive drugs, drugs we have made illegal. There are some trials going on in this country and in Canada to assist people addicted to get drugs to help them “come down” from their addictions and to help their bodies to re-program so as to eventually not need the drugs.
Professionals have discovered that abstinence alone from these dangerous drugs is not the answer because those so afflicted don’t have the strength or will power to combat the addiction without help.
The final compelling piece for me was the clearly stated fact that due to poverty, unemployment, ignorance, childhood loss and trauma and a host of other things that can befall a person in life, the situation is set up for depression, mental illness, lack of community and supports—all of which make a person more susceptible to getting hooked on drugs as a means to feeling better. Our country needs to do much better to address all these problems!
It seems to me that this calls on all of us to address inequalities in our great nation between the rich and the poor, seeing that all our people have the right to the basics; food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, and meaningful employment and voting for those individuals who will work for this justice for all.
Our faith, our religion, that we hold dear, calls us to no less than this kind of concern and response. Jesus is clear on this point in the Gospel today—we must serve others, not strive to be served!
In closing friends; I want to comment briefly on the clear references to “suffering” in today’s readings—what are we to make of that? In the selection from Isaiah today; we recognize this as part of the Servant Song that we often read during Lent and Holy Week, describing the sufferings that will come to the Messiah. We have to look beyond the words, to see the reality that can come from the inevitable sufferings that each of us must bear in this life; illness, misunderstandings, loss of all kinds, and death.
We don’t wish to experience any of these down times, but it is precisely through many of these burdens that we can come to experience the real goodness of others and what is truly important in life—much like my brother’s family is going through at present. And our brother Jesus, “God With Us,” can be a real strength in all of this. I often tell people in time of need, to simply utter Jesus’ name—that there is great power in that.
Our God doesn’t wish us to suffer, but, suffering happens—it is part of our human, imperfect condition. But one thing of which we can always be certain—we never stand alone—our God, in Jesus stands with us, wants to be with us, if we but allow it, if we but ask.
Life for each of us was intended to be good. If we look around our world and see that it is not good for everyone; we must ask ourselves if we have done our part to make it so. This earth is our experiment, not God’s—if it isn’t turning out right; we can only blame ourselves, collectively, for when God gave it to the first creatures, God said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers and fill the earth—and be responsible for it” (Gen.1:18). Amen? Amen!