HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY OF THE 2ND WEEK OF ADVENT.
THEME: STRESS THERAPY!
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)
*Is 40: 25 – 31, Matt 11: 28 – 30.
Whenever a man can no longer rest, especially at nights, he is like a car that has embarked on a very long journey with no programme of stopping to refuel or reoil his engine. What do you expect? An engine knock before long of course. And that is the fate of many Christians; medically we call it stroke (when it knocks the brain), cardiac arrest (when it knocks the heart directly), ulcer or kidney failure (when it disturbs the stomach and its metabolic processes) or cancer of this or that (when vital organs are corroded) – but the cause is all the same. Psychologically, we call it insomnia (sleeplessness), hypomania (over ambition) or pschizophrenia (when we hear strange voices speaking to us alone) – all these are caused by worries and anxieties that are not well handled by the child of God. Spiritually, we call it demonic attack, witchcraft spirits coming to oppress us at nights, lack of forgiveness and lack of faith /trust in God. The consequence is always the same fate of Judas – physical, psychological or spiritual suicide.
Exhaustion is a human facticity (using the terminology of existentialists); a human experience that happens both physically and spiritually. I don’t even know which one is more dangerous. But today’s 1st reading says that ‘although youths shall faint and grow weary…, but they who wait upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed’.
It is dangerous to work and work and not rest. It normally leads to organ breakdown (liver, kidney, brain, stomach, heart, lungs, etc). Psychological disorders like hypomania (over ambition), insomnia (sleeplessness), schizophrenia (hearing strange voices), manic depression (feeling unloved), etc are likely to manifest. And the symptoms are seen in dangerous emotional outbursts, lack of self control and sobriety. For men of God ( like bishops and the so called ‘powerful charismatic priests’), it can even be more complicated; they can begin to feel like God or hear themselves more than they really hear God or they may begin to hear the devi lurking in the midst of sycophants and desperate poor people around them. Then their inner prayer life begins to suffer; their inner spiritual defences and personal virtues begin to crumble and the enemy penetrates through pride, anger, lust or vanity. That is why ANNUAL LEAVE and proper rest is highly recommended for everybody in active service both priests and laity.
Jesus says in today’s gospel: ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. It is the kind of rest we get from meditative prayer, Eucharistic communion, quiet time, etc. It is a time to take His yoke in exchange for our burdens and depressions; a time to listen more to the Word of God. Good direction and the presence of good spiritual advicers will help so much. To move out of the humility of Jesus is the greatest deceit of the enemy. And no one can pretend at this stage because ‘by their fruits you shall know them’. We need to be very careful as we do the work of the Lord so that we remain in communion with the Lord of the work.
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest… My yoke is easy and my burden is light’. No man, from time immemorial, has ever uttered such wonderful and soul soothing words except from the lips of Jesus Christ. He is our chief stress therapist. He is able to say this only because he is God. The yoke of Satan is always burdensome, lasting and difficult to disentangle oneself from. *The ‘Jesus therapy’ is the simplest therapy. He says: ‘Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls’.* According to Dr Dean Ornish, ‘Stress comes not from what you do (or what has been done to you) but from how you react to it’. You may decide not to get angry when someone has hurt you seriously. Just listen to this quote : *’Anger directly affects the liver’s health, emotion of fear affects Kidney function, anxiety, rigorous and intense pondering or thinking affects lungs, melancholy affects mental health. It means that feelings are tied to physical well being of humans* ‘(Yin and Zhang (1983), Medical Text Book of Chinese Traditional Medicine). Vima Dasan therefore concludes that, ‘The 3 best doctors are: Dr Diet (good feeding), Dr Quiet (prayerful recollection) and Dr Merriman (relaxation /celebration). In all these, Jesus is the chief actor. Just learn to come to him! May God bless you today!
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