As Christians, we are called to discipleship, and it is the work of a lifetime. A disciple seeks to do what Jesus would do and to be all they were created to be for the good of the world. God-given gifts and talents are recognised and nurtured, and others are enabled and supported to live into this fullness of life. God’s gifts are meant to be shared, and shared abundantly.
Mental health can be nourished and supported so that all people can reach their full potential and flourish within a life-giving community. Mercy, encouragement and inclusion are essential. They also need practical helps to living. As well as financial support. They need friendship and fellowship within the community.
Christ is present when these people are deprived of these essentials and when they are stigmatised. It can be tempting to think that a blessed life is one with minimal hardship and challenge; and no one wants to see people suffer. Mental health challenges can still be a cause for shame and despair in some segments of Australian society, despite significant gains through education and societal change.
We are called to open our hearts to these people in such needs. These people need hope to assist them on their journey of life. They are part of the body of Christ and are not to be set aside as helpless and useless. What needs to be done so that those who struggle with mental ill-health can take their place in our communities and wider Australian society?
How do we walk together as disciples? Jeremiah holds nothing back when he cries out the truth. It comes at a cost to him, as people would rather not hear what he has to say. It makes some people uncomfortable, and they let him know about it through constant insults. He cries out in his anguish: Lord, you have seduced me and I have allowed myself to be seduced.
He also wishes it were not his lot to keep speaking when it would be easier to say nothing and fade into an easier life. However, he knows that his call is to speak the words that burn within him. He continues, even when it is hard; he knows that God is with him, despite the cost.
The voices of people living with mental ill-health are prophetic. They hold the key for ways of moving forward through respectful listening, and hearing. God speaks to us through the broken and the powerless. Through the faithfulness and perseverance of many modern-day Jeremiahs in speaking uncomfortable truths, better care models and structures have been made and continue to be made possible.
Jesus always draws near to those who are frail, sick, poor, disabled, suffering mental ill-health, limited, despised, marginalised, or shunned: The Incarnation is God’s definitive statement of solidarity with all people.
The Gospel for this Social Justice Sunday is one that affirms the goodness and faithfulness of God, and of all who struggle with mental ill-health. God is near to those who suffer, and does not leave when the going gets tough: God’s presence and assistance is made manifest in loving words and practical actions in people’s lives as they are. The cross is not hidden but carried in community, becoming a source of revelation and wisdom for the community.
Peter has received a revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One. But he misunderstood what that meant. Jesus has just called him the Rock upon which the church is to be built. But now Jesus has to reprimand Peter. Get behind me, Satan. Jesus is struggling with the suffering and death he is about to enter. Jesus did not want this. It was God’s way of doing things. He struggled just as Jeremiah struggled. In the agony in the garden he speaks openly: Father if it is possible, let this chalice pass me by; but not as I will but as you want it to be. And when he hung on the cross he exclaimed: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.
Jesus is entering the human reality of suffering – even mental suffering. He is taking on the mind of God. Taking on the mind of God sees gift, potential and dignity in every human life, no matter how broken or imperfect it may seem by temporal, worldly standards.
The second reading calls us to make our daily lives our worship for this lavish gift of God’s self: the way we live is what matters to God. We cry out to God for mercy, knowing that God is good and forgiving, and that God gives us what we need without reserve. Is this also what we, in turn offer to others?
The Responsorial Psalm names both food for the hungry and water for the thirsty as part of God’s gifts. There is also a seat at the table at the banquet. Instead of drawing away, Jesus always stays close. By a holistic approach to care that prioritises inclusion in community, lives are restored and transformed.
The Gospel acclamation set for this Sunday says it best. As disciples, may we be sowers of this lifegiving, unexpected, surprising, and abundant hope. May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.
Noel Mansfield, MSC