You Can Save Lives With the Corners of Your Mouth

by Fr Richard Heilman | June 10, 2018 12:04 pm

 

I began my homily this week with this quote:

“I was raised without religion. I don’t believe in a higher power. I am instinctively hostile to any kind of religion.” -Anthony Bourdain, American Chef and Television Personality, 61 years old, on June 8, found dead by suicide.

We have a serious problem in America–we have an epidemic of suicide. I am convinced that the soaring rate of suicide is a direct result of the epidemic of the “disconnect from the Divine.”

The LA Times had an article[1] not too long ago entitled, “Church attendance linked with reduced suicide risk, especially for Catholics, study says”

In this article it said,

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry, denounced religious belief as the “universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.” Much current research, however, has focused not only on the deep biological underpinnings of religiosity, but its potential benefits as well.

 

Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women — practicing Catholics — appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm.

 

Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published by Journal of the America Medical Association in Psychiatry.

 

The women’s church attendance was not the only factor; which church they attended mattered as well. Protestant women who worshiped weekly at church were far less likely to take their own lives than were women who seldom or never attended services. But these same Protestant women were still seven times more likely to die by their own hand than were their devout Catholic sisters.

 

Among especially devout Catholic women — those in the pews more than once a week — suicides were a vanishing phenomenon. Among the 6,999 Catholic women who said they attended Mass more than once a week, there was not a single suicide.

In our first reading this Sunday, we see this classic scene from Genesis–we see Adam hid himself.

Sin always involves an alienation from God; a wandering away. God is seeking us out. That compelling tug. That conviction that we are not where we are supposed to be.

In a discussion on this topic of the relation of faith and suicide, one woman said,

“I was an Atheist for about 20 years and TRUST me when I tell you – secretly – the entire time – I wanted God to exist because the thought of nothingness after death terrified me to the very core of my being. I’d awaken in the middle of the night in a panic attacks, regularly, because I was afraid to die and be consumed by the cold blackness. Outwardly, however, I was proud of my intellectual superiority over those silly religious who believed in fairytales. It was all an act. I envied their faith, their joy and their happiness – because inside – I was empty and sad. I was lonely. I didn’t think anyone loved me. If you lack hope, then suicide is always on the table. For me, knowing that God loved me enough to die for me changed everything and in a radical way!

 

Now, I no longer cry myself to sleep at night.”

You see? Prior to original sin, Adam was “not” afraid of God; he walked in easy fellowship with God. This is what God wants—that we walk in the garden with Him; that we walk in rhythm with Him—that we walk in peace.

In alienation, after sin, we feel, “Oh, He’s angry with me. And I’m afraid Him.” And we hide … we keep our distance.

One of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit–I believe it is “entry way” gift to all the gifts–is Fear of the Lord. But this is a fear that comes after falling in love with God; a fear of ever displeasing the One we love SO MUCH. This is a “very good kind” of fear.

The bad kind of fear comes when we are separated or disconnected from God. We fear that He is angry and “out to get us,” so we hide.

So many people hide from God and–secretly–want to find a way “home” to His arms again.

As the woman above shared, almost every time, these people come out from behind their proverbial bushes of atheism (or any kind of alienation) because they see that you and I have found something that is filling our emptiness; something that is a source of joy and happiness and meaning and purpose in our lives.

Read the woman’s beautiful reflection above again. Notice it was not a course on St. Thomas Aquinas or reading all of the books of the Bible that compelled her to come out from hiding from God. It was your smile, your kind words, your eagerness and generous desire to help that “impacted” her and led her into the arms of God. She simply wanted what you have.

We all may be given grandiose missions and we may receive wonderful awards and praise for these, but if we miss the many daily missions of simply turning up the corners of our mouths whenever we come into contact with anyone, we miss everything. We may miss the opportunity to lift someone out of hiding and darkness and emptiness and even thoughts of suicide, by simply …

turning up the corners of our mouths

 

My homily begins around the 17:30 minute mark …

Endnotes:
  1. LA Times had an article: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-church-attendance-suicide-20160629-snap-story.html

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