20th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 18, 2019
See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons
Over the last few years, I have found myself working with quite a few students grappling with intense anxiety or clinical depression.
And I must admit, I have always felt a bit out of my element in our conversations.
For their pain seems so deep that it seems as if no one can reach them.
I remember one of my students saying, “It is like I am trapped in this pit and everyone is just standing at the rim shouting down at me to climb out. I mean seriously, if I could get out of the pit I would. But it is just not that simple.”
And I didn’t quite understand.
For suddenly, when Dametrius died, I found myself in the pit.
I still am not quite sure why this death got me there.
I’ve lost other students. Buried other people I love.
But for some reason, this one left me with all of the marks of depression.
I was apathetic. Finding my daily routines so difficult to get through.
I was distracted. Constantly losing focus.
I would burst into tears at the weirdest moments, like in the shower or while grading exams.
And my prayer life imploded. Days would go by when all God would get from me was an exhausted shake of the head. Not today I would mumble. Not today.
Like my student, I kept looking up, willing myself out of this pit that I had never asked for. But it didn’t work.
Which is probably why I heard this reading from Jeremiah in a whole different light.
For I can now imagine Jeremiah’s fear, his anguish, his resignation as he was cast into a pit that he never asked for.
And in Jeremiah’s plight, I see the path that so many of us must walk.
For many of us have faced pits on our journey.
Sometimes, we have cast ourselves in by the choices we have made. Digging them deeper with our guilt and shame.
But far too often, these pits are outside of our control.
Bone-crushing grief over the loss of someone we have loved.
Anxiety and depression that we try to manage.
And frankly, the Gospel is a reminder that we are not exempted from these pits in our lives.
Jesus never promised that we would not experience pain or darkness, loss or isolation. On the contrary, he bore them all so that he could share in the path we would all walk. So he could be fully human.
He climbs down into our pits and sits with us in the darkness until the ladder is lowered in for us to climb out.
Sharing our cup to the last drop.
And in Christ’s example, we are all given both a promise and a command.
A promise that if we find ourselves in the pit in this moment, we are not alone. Our God is nestled beside us. Holding our hand. Wiping our tears. Until together, we find a way out of the pit.
And a command to go and do likewise. To see the pits in the lives of our sisters and brothers and insist on joining them. Lowering ourselves into their darkness. Not with easy answers, quick prayers, or cheap condolences. But with the assurance that we will sit beside them. Incarnating God’s love in the sacred silence of shared grief, fear and pain.
So let us go forth, persevering in our journeys. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, in the pits or on the peaks, trusting that he leads us onwards to the Promised Land. May God be Praised.