Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Opioid Crisis and Advent




While driving around recently, I came across a fairly popular song on the radio with the following lyrics

"Medicate" by the band "Theory of a Deadman"

Got no job, mom pays my bills
Textin' ex's get my fill
Sweatin' bullets, Netflix-chills
World's out there singin' the blues
Twenty more dead on the evening news
Think to myself "really, what's the use?"
I'm just like you, I was born to lose

Why oh why can't you just fix me?
When all I want's to feel numb
But the medication's all gone
Why oh why does God hate me?
When all I want's to get high
And forget this so-called life

I am so frickin' bored
Nothin' to do today
I guess I'll sit around and medicate (medicate)
I am so frickin' bored
Nothing to do today
I guess I'll sit around and medicate (medicate)





I'm not sure if the artist is celebrating this reality, or just pointing it out, but either way I think it is helpful for us to pay attention to this.


We are all probably familiar with the opioid crisis in our country.  Just two stats

1) Opioids are the leading cause of death among people under 50 

2) Heroin alone (just one form of opioid) killed more people in 2015 than carr accidents and guns COMBINED!


We are asked to be people who bring comfort to God's people as we hear in the first reading.  Well, folks, this is the atmosphere in our world that we are asked to bring comfort to.

Some Christians are asked to be bring Comfort in the midst of severe famine and poverty.  Some Christians are asked to bring Comforth in the midst of religious persecution.  In our culture, we are asked to bring Comfort into the world amidst a culture of people that are medicating themselves at epic levels.

And there are lots of ways to medicate...not just drugs.  Shopping, food, caffeine, nicotine, my phone, etc.


So how do we bring "comfort" to God's people in the midst of all this?  The Gospel gives us a start - tell people to REPENT!

That sounds like it would only make people more depressed, more down on themselves...but here's the thing...people went out into the desert to see John.   John the Baptist wasn't bothering them in the middle of town...people went out to see HIM!

Why?  Because no matter how many drugs we take, no matter how much we try to medicate, we know that 

a - we sin (or, if you're atheist, "make decisions that harm ourselves and give us guilt") and
b - we can't fix it

So this invitation to repent is an invitation to acknowledge that these burdens I'm carrying around...God can HEAL them


Another thing the Church offers the world hopped up on medication and hating the burden and "boredom" of reality is the gift of a rhythm of life

1) Each day, we're invited to introspection, to prayer, and to celebration

2) Certainly also weekly we're invited to give something up like meat on Fridays and spend more time in prayer and on Sundays we celebrate

3) But also, as we are aware right now, the Church structures our year with this rhythm of life as well - we have seasons like Advent and Lent where we enter into more silence, perhaps giving some things up and then we have these great seasons of Christmas and Easter, and of course throughout the year we have "Feast days" for great saints and great moments in Church history.  So precisely when the world is trying to tell us to run around like a chicken with our head cut off and be frenzied, we step back and celebrate the quiet and peaceful and anticipatory season of Advent.

In a world of instant gratification, to choose to patiently wait for something is an act of rebellion against the frenetic; and act of rebellion against the evil one.



This rhythm of life given from God is something that the Israelites thanked God for regularly in the Old Testament.  People today often mock the laws of the Old Testament because some of them talk about clothing and shellfish and pork etc...but the Israelites said "We thank you, God, for this way of life you teach us!"

This rhythm of life given to us from God helps us recognize that not every day is the same. If I just think every day is the same, and there is no purpose or rhythm to anything, then things start to get boring REAL quick...

and so I look for a way out...

and I medicate and flee reality



Let us bring the comfort that only comes through Christ to a culture that is so afraid or bored by reality that people are turning to anything they can find to escape.  


Let us show people that the invitation to repent and the invitation to live out purpose and a rhythm of life are actually great gifts from our Loving Father in Heaven!