A recent report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services catalogues a variety of mental disorders – including severe anxiety and depression – that increased exponentially since the height of the pandemic. Bishop Tobin recently highlighted the mental health crisis in Rhode Island, and suggested concrete ways to provide lasting solutions, especially for youth, in his weekly column, The Imitation of Christ. The Bishop’s focus on prayer – in addition to medically therapeutic measures – is prescient.
This week, the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord, when Jesus departs the confines of this world in order to ascend to his Father in Heaven. Admittedly anxious about what this means for the burgeoning Church, the disciples appear downcast and afraid. Jesus consoles them that his departure shouldn’t worry them, but give them hope – for the Father and the Son will send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to dwell with them, protect them, and enliven them with his seven-fold gifts. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says as he calms the fears of these weary followers. “Trust in God. Trust also in me” (Jn 14:1).
Those who suffer from anxiety should be reminded that even amidst the darkest of hours, the light of Christ shines brightly before them. The Spirit dwells within them; and He will never abandon them. The Ascension also beckons us to seek that which is above, to borrow the words of St. Paul. We will always experience suffering in this world; but we shall never forget the glory that awaits those who love and serve God. This promise won’t erase our problems; but it will certainly give us hope to heal every kind of fear.
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