The Sunday Project
We'll Be Counting Stars
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By Brandon Miranda
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!" For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen."
Happy Sabbath, y’all!
There I was on the couch in between Zoom classes, curled up on myself while I was sobbing and rocking back and forth. When my boyfriend discovered me upon his return from the grocery store, I was hyperventilating and unable to form a sentence. “I-I-I’m s-s-s-sorry” was all I could muster. He held me in his arms, cracked a few jokes, and smiled at me. “Dang...you’re even beautiful when you cry!” This managed to make me laugh.
Today, as we hear/read the selected scripture from the lectionary, a clear theme emerges from the text: the Lord GOD will provide all the comfort EVER. In the first reading, we see Isaiah proclaim his prophetic vision of the LORD’s mountain in which, “The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth.” (Is 25:8) In the responsorial psalm, we hear the popular Psalm 23 and the iconic line, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.” And in the second reading, Paul exhorts us in saying, “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19)
While that sounds wonderful and does provide hope in my life, I face what many LGBTQ+ people face; struggles with mental health. For me, I have struggled with anxiety and depression at several points in my life. Especially during this COVID-19 era, episodes like the one mentioned above have happened as I buckled under the stress of life. While this is still an ongoing struggle, I felt compelled to write about mental health for this Sunday reflection.
Especially within the LGBTQ+ context, mental health is a huge deal! A simple search can uncover the incredible disparities better queer folk and their heterosexual counterparts. Here are some statistics provided by the American Psychiatric Association:
- LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
- LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals.
- Transgender individuals who identify as African American/black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Multiracial/Mixed Race are at increased risk of suicide attempts than white transgender individuals.
- LGBTQ individuals have higher rates of mental health service use than their heterosexual counterparts.
- The rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of heterosexual youth.
- LGBTQ older adults face a number of unique challenges, including the combination of antiLGBTQ stigma and ageism. Approximately 31% of LGBTQ older adults report depressive symptoms; 39% report serious thoughts of taking their own lives.
As much as I’d want to believe that this heavenly abundance proclaimed in scripture does in fact exist, it is sometimes different to trust this when my brain is on fire. Every ounce of me wants to cling to this promise from God, but all I can is the darkness that descends in my mind. The world becomes smaller and smaller as silence consumes every last shred of light. Have I painted a dark enough picture?
As someone who struggles alongside my queer siblings, I also recognize that God does not make a promise he cannot keep! I see my struggles with mental health as an impediment that draws me further into isolation...until I start reading the lives of the saints. Mother Teresa spoke of her decades of silence from God as she struggled to believe her work was God’s will. John of the Cross wrote beautifully about his famous “Dark Night of the Soul” and of his experience of a distant God. John Vianney was probably one of the best parish priests to have ever lived, but believed his entire ministry was inferior to the works of so many others. Countless holy people through Church history have struggled to believe they were “good enough” and oddly enough, that brings me great comfort!
So what’s the difference? How is it that these saints thrived through their anxiety and depression to become an example of holiness? What am I supposed to do when I can’t trust my own mind to ever believe that there’s in fact a light at the end of the tunnel?
I think I find my own answer in the story of Abraham and God’s promise of Isaac. In this Genesis story, God instructs Abraham to look up in the sky and count the stars with the promise that his descents will be as numerous as those stars. This story never seemed special until I realized that God was asking this at the middle of the day! Thus, the LORD was basically saying, “Yo, Abe. You know there are innumerable stars in the sky though you can’t see them right now. Do you have faith that my promise is the same?”
According to Merriam-Webster, faith has two definitions that I think are particularly applicable in this instance: “fidelity to one's promises” and “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” In the face of depression and anxiety, the promises of God gain their power in the very gift God readily gives their children: FAITH. We are called to trust God beyond what we can perceive and as frightening as that is, God’s promised reward is priceless. That mountain will come! That rod and staff will lead us through any darkness! God will fully supply all whatever we need! As hard as that may be to believe, let us pray for an increase of faith that God keeps their Word.
And my dear siblings, let none of us be ashamed to admit when we need help! Being here for each other is one of the greatest gifts we can give as a community of faith, especially as queer folk. If you ever need help, talk to a friend/loved one/family/trusted person. If you ever need resources, check out the resources at the bottom of this NAMI webpage. And if thoughts of taking your own life have crossed your mind, do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.
You are never alone. You are always loved. We are all in this together.