The mental health crisis in this country is real, and it is affecting all of us in some way. A few years ago, when I saw it rear its ugly head in high schools and youth groups, I heard first-hand a dismissal that it was not a serious problem affecting our youth that needed to be given priority. I hope that opinion has changed. It is real, it is dangerous, and it is hurting the hearts, bodies, and souls of America.
There are mental health professionals and doctors who are equipped to help. I am not one of those people, and this post is not giving medical advice of any kind. If you know someone who needs help, help them find it with a trained professional.
It is a difficult time to be a young person. It is an isolating time to be an older person. It is a distressing time to be a parent or a provider for a family. The burdens and fears afflicting all of us right now are heavy and scary. Everything from formula shortages and gas prices, to cultural shifts, rising violence and disregard for human life, to bullying, isolation, and depression makes the future seem bleak at best.
Sitting with the Gospel readings for this week, including this upcoming Sunday, reminded me once again that we cannot do any of this on our own. Nor do we have to.
The Gospel readings come from Jesus’ long discourse in John from the Last Supper. Again and again, he reassures them. He promises them peace and glory and answers to their prayers. It is not the speech of a king or a politician or a judge. It is the reassurance of a best friend.
Yes, he is speaking to his disciples- but he is also speaking to us. He is here, and He loves us. Nothing can take that away. As the Apostles found out, not even his own death was the end of the story. So for us, too, nothing can take him away from us. Not fear or suffering. Not uncertainty or confusion or violence. He is here.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you.”
“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
“I have called you friends.”
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”
In addition, he promises to send us the Holy Spirit as an advocate, sometimes translated comforter or paraclete. The Greek word is paraklētos, and it refers to someone who would accompany you to court. The paraclete would assist you, intercede for you to the judge, and give you advice, counsel, and comfort.
We have nothing to fear. In front of the court of the world, who will hate us because it hated our friend, Jesus, we have the Paraclete to counsel us and comfort us. We are not alone.
When we do not have the strength or the words to pray, when the dark night threatens to envelope us, we have the Paraclete, who “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Jesus gives us what we need: he gives us the Holy Spirit. In times of uncertainty, we do not need fancy words. We simply need to call on the Holy Spirit. When we are worried about the future, when the culture threatens to take our children, or when the crosses get too heavy, go back to John 14-15. Read these words from your friend. He is speaking them to you.
Jesus is here. You do not have to do anything without Him. So don’t try.
Image credit: “Chair of St. Peter” (detail) by Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons