A common complaint amoung people who are overstressed at home or in the workplace is that there is just so much to do that it is overwhelming. It’s not a matter of being lazy or indifferent to work but rather trying to set priorities. Not knowing where to start the work piles up and procrastination, avoidance and finally paralysis sets in. Nothing gets done.
The same can happen in our faith lives. We might find ourselves slipping into behaviours that at first do not seem like something that we would normally do. This causes guilt, excess concern and frustration. Rather then seeking the confessional and reconciliation we might avoid that healing sacrament because we are ashamed of what we have done and do not want to talk about it. The difficulty of this approach is that sometimes the problem does not go away; in fact it can become worse. Psychologists talk about this as a shame spiral. A spiral because the more we avoid talking about the issues that are bothering us the more likely we are to continue them and thereby increasing our shame and the cycle continues.
Ezra talks about an entire community that has fallen into this trap of denial and avoidance. Like many victims of crime, the returned exiles were perhaps acting out on the mistaken belief that they were responsible for their own fate. No longer feeling worthy as people of the covenant they allowed themselves to squander God’s mercy and to live hedonistic lives devoid of meaning.
Now this may not be something that has happened to you but perhaps you might know someone who is experiencing this in their lives. We might see a good friend turning to alcohol as a means of coping with stress. Or perhaps they might be engaging in high risk sexual activities. Before judging or condemning it is good to understand that breaking out of a self destructive pattern is not easy. Sometimes it takes hitting bottom before we realize that the only way out is up and when we do hit that bottom it is important that there are good friends that will be there to help us back up.
This is what Ezra talks about when he says that even in his community’s darkest hour God has not abandoned them but in fact shone a light of hope upon them. Sometimes that light of hope comes in the form of a caring person.
You might ask yourself what you have to offer in someone who is at the bottom of a pit of self destruction. After all most of us are not doctors or psychologists. But in fact we have what we need to be healers.
In the Gospel Jesus sends the twelve apostles to heal. They were just twelve ordinary people with nothing but the clothes on their backs. No university degrees, no manuals on how to say the right thing at the right time. Just twelve people who put their trust in Jesus and received their words and courage from the Holy Spirit.