Saturday, July 18, 2015

Those Days of Depression and Melancholy

For 10 days, I labored over the readings for Sunday, the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time. I knew what I wanted to write about, but I had the most difficult time expressing my thoughts and feelings with words. Much of the time, I had great difficulty focusing on the task at hand, even sometimes really desiring to set down to attempt to write. I would pray, "Lord, You have to help me; I can't do it." I awoke this morning with these thoughts. By God's grace, may they be of benefit.

Psalm 123 is an ascending psalm. We ascend when we turn our thoughts to God and walk in obedience to God's law, walking in obedience to the Catholic Church which explains God's law to us.

But what about those days of depression, seemingly days on end, that we are melancholy? What of those times when even trying to do a little good is a tremendous burden? When everything is so bleak? What of those days when we feel God does not really care for us, will not help us; those days that we really don't care for anything except having a pity-party?  We feel as though there is no one in the world who understands how we feel.

Those are the days that we cannot focus upon God--even if we had the desire to do so. The Scriptures are dry to us; don't mean a thing. They are just words on a page, going "in one ear and out the other, and we simply don't care. What about these days? These are very dangerous times. We know that our feelings are fallen, that they deceive us much of the times; nevertheless, they often dictate how we act and react. We must remember that these are days that Jesus went through.

My mind will often conjure up the thought: "But Jesus is God." That thought, albeit true, can be extremely harmful to me in that the underlying belief is that Jesus is more God than man, which is absolutely, totally false. Jesus, although wholly God, is also wholly man. He had undergone everything that we undergo in order that He may sympathize with us. He went through days of depression, times of melancholy that we cannot even fathom. He had to be tested--experience more than anything we experience. How many times did He feel He was "speaking to the wind," because people--even His own disciples--could not comprehend what He was teaching them, often taking things out of context, misinterpreting what He was saying? We sense this in the times He would say to His disciples, "Ye of little faith."

Was He not melancholy when He had set His face like flint towards Jerusalem, to undergo His Passion? Was He not melancholy to the utmost in the Garden of Gethsemane? Let us try to put ourselves in our Lord's sandals. How would we feel, knowing every livid detail of what we were going to have to suffer? Would we not "cave in"--unless God upheld us, strengthened us? This is how the martyrs were able to undergo their martyrdom; this is the only way that we will persevere. I have heard people say, "I will die for Christ." No, they will not--if God does not strengthen them. This is what St. Paul was referring to when he said, "When I am weak, I am strong." However, he had, thrice, cried out to the Lord.

Although I think I am taking it out of context, I believe St. Augustine's remarks still ring true: "What maketh the heart of a Christian heavy? Because he is a pilgrim, and longeth (always longing) for his country." This is one of the reasons why it is necessary for us to undergo these periods of time. These days of depression, of melancholy need to remind us that we have not "arrived," that this world is our pilgrimage, that our souls long for our "country."

The psalmist may very well have hit the proverbial "rock bottom." He can only must enough strength to lift up his "eyes" to God. This is the times that all we can muster is a feeble "Lord, help me." Our "eyes" are our thoughts. Our help-me-Lord cries must remain upon our lips "till He has mercy upon us." Although we have not been punished to the degree that we deserve, nevertheless we are undergoing more than we conceive that we can bear. "In my weakness, I am strong."

During these times also, we need to be reminded that we are not "islands in a stream," that we are not the only ones undergoing these feelings of depression. The psalmist begins with "I" but quickly reverts to "our." There are other Catholics and other estranged brethren undergoing what we are experiencing--and more so. Our prayers must be for them also. Perhaps, they are so weak, so fearful, that they cannot--or forgets--to cry out to the Lord. Let our cries be for them also, for we are one Body crying out for one another.

When we listen to our Lord by means of the Catholic Church, we ascend. The Spirit enters us and sets us on our "feet," placing us upon solid ground. The Catholic Church is now our Lord's "native place," His Kingdom. However, many are the times that we, individually, are a rebellious people. "Have pity on us, O Lord, have pity on us." Many times our Lord does not perform "mighty" deeds, apart from curing a "few sick people," for our sake, for His love for us keeps us from becoming even more accountable for our sins, our unbelief. Now, meditate upon the Entrance Antiphon:

Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of Your temple (the Catholic Church), Your praise, O God, like Your name, reaches the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with saving justice.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Church.
--Tommy Turner