The celebration of the Fourth Sunday in Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is such a wonderful celebration for all, but most especially for those suffering from depression, grief, and the darkness of myriad other sufferings. The Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours for this Sunday is such a fitting conclusion to this day. We hear from the letter to the Ephesians 5:8. “Live as children of the light.” This is following by Psalm 112 where we hear that the man who fears the Lord is “light in the darkness for the upright…” And the first antiphon “In the darkness he [the Good Shepherd] dawns; a light for upright hearts, alleluia.”
This is such a beautiful set of readings for those lost in the darkness of depression and grief. The Good Shepherd, on this day and always, gives us the guidance we need to navigate the darkness of mental health struggles. Jesus is the light. Depression and grief are sorrows and sufferings of this earthly life. If we try to go through them without constantly turning to God’s Word, to prayer, to daily Mass, and to the sacraments, we will get lost in the darkness.
In the suffering of this life, we so quickly turn to those things that will only trap us in our suffering: alcohol, smoking, drugs, stress eating, cursing, sex, etc. Good Shepherd Sunday is a message for those in the darkness of suffering to turn back to the Greatest Shepherd of all, Jesus Christ. If we are to leave the darkness of suffering and the darkness of sin, we must fight the daily battle to let go of our maladaptive coping strategies.
We live “as children of the light” by fighting each moment of the day to turn away from our maladaptive coping skills. When we fail, we can still turn to our Lord for help. We have the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to help us. All of the saints are a prayer away. Each day Christ offers himself for us to guide us through our darkness. How can we feel alone when we partake of the most Holy Eucharist? We cannot be alone, for we take the body of Christ into our bodies. We are nourished by him.
So often we become discouraged because we think that Jesus is going to take away our suffering. And when he does not we feel abandoned. But the charge is for us to live as children of the light. Jesus will not live our lives for us. No. But, he will guide us and be with us the entire way. But we cannot forget to do our part. We must live. We must follow the light in the darkness. We need to be in the Word. We need to be patient in our ever present suffering and ever constant in prayer. See Romans 12:12. How else can we follow the Light? The list of maladaptive coping skills turns us away from the Light. But the Catholic Church offers us constant means to turn back to the Light. Again and again and again.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this is a call that pierces through the darkness of depression and grief. The call of Good Shepherd Sunday. Take up your courage in your suffering. The Good Shepherd is waiting. Let us follow him. Let us love and encourage each other in the darkness. The lie of Satan is that we are alone in the darkness of our suffering. How very wrong this is. We are never alone. But we must choose to reach out and to live and to seek the Light. Christ is always there waiting and encouraging us to return. He offers himself every day to us in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is ever our Greatest Shepherd. Let us follow him every moment of our lives.