As a priest, I get to hear many people’s stories, their joys and hardships, their blessings and trials. I also often end up spending time with people who are struggling with a dependency, an addiction, or an unhealthy coping mechanism because they just need someone to listen to them. Contrary to many stereotypical and misconceived understandings, people who are living with some types of dependency, addiction, or unhealthy coping mechanism are not happy. Many are constricted, paralyzed, or held back by fears, especially fears of what might happen — fears of the unknown. Some of us will think that it is an easy thing to solve or overcome, and why they could not do it!?! Yet, when people have become dependent or codependent on something, it becomes part of their lives, their ways of thinking, their comfort zones. Healing is not a simple, logical, or intellectual action that could be done in a short time for we are dealing with complex human beings. It is easy to dismiss without realizing that all of us struggle with one thing or another in our own daily ups and downs.
They are wonderful people, but for one reason or another, some have chosen to withdraw to went into seclusion or allowed themselves to be enslaved by something. There are varieties of reasons why, ranging from something dramatic, traumatic, to the simplest reason because they introduced to those things by others. They want to let go and be free, but many times, they are too afraid to let go because those things have become ingrained or integral to their self-consciousness or identity.
I would like to use an image from one of my past favorite shows (before it became too redundant for me). That show was “The Walking Dead,” which depicts life after the zombie apocalypse. They never identified the zombies as “zombies” but use names like “walkers, “biters,” or similar terms to describe them. For some reasons, the term “walking dead” captures a complex picture and reality for me.
Some would immediately identify them with the zombie-like figures, beings that got reanimated after the initial death, wandering around meaninglessly, searching for living things to eat. These beings are truly dead because they have no real faculties and their bodies rot slowly with time. They are reanimated after their first physical departure and death through a small part of the brain that keeps the motor skills going! However, I think the term “walking dead” can also be applicable to the survivors. Everything that they know from civilization is gone! They wander around searching for shelters and some kind of permanency, hoping to rebuild a society or rekindle a sense of civilization as they had known. Yet, without spilling too much of the plot, all of the pseudo-societies that they found all end up being dysfunctional or could not last due to outside pressures trying to take over what they have tried to build. Therefore, those survivors continue to wander, walking like dead people, restless, lost, uneasy, and without a home (without the comforts of a civilized life).
In the same way, we can be spiritual zombies or the “walking dead” when we live life without knowing who we really are and knowing what is our divine purpose. So many people are just living life, moving along, doing what is asked of them or following after what is popular, without really taking the time to deepen and understand their God-given identity. It is sad to see that many people are living life without real purpose and meaning, vainly chasing after successes or achievements, without really seeking what is real, everlasting, and transcendental. Many are willing to do everything that this world and society ask of them without really knowing who they really are and the true freedom that can found in God. Others are too scared to let go of the things that enslaved them, thinking that there is no escape since they have gotten so used to those matters. We remain spiritually dead when we allow the things of this world or the things that enslaved us choking us to dead and make us hopeless, life meaningless, and everyday joyless.
Nevertheless, let us take heed of what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (4:4-7)
Imagine that! We were created free, redeemed and saved by the blood of Christ as He chose to free us from the bondage of sin and yoke of slavery to the things of this world. The sixth chapter of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans also confirmed this reality. We died to our old selves at Baptism when His grace washed away our old sins and made us new. The same love on the Cross, as He stretched out His hands between heaven and earth, is meant to make us free to live in Him. The saints taught us that true freedom is the freedom to not be enslaved by sins and held back by the meaningless, redundant things of this world as to live as God’s children. Therefore, we can be sure that we were never meant to be held back, enslaved, or wander meaninglessly in this world. We are meant for more! His love shows us that and has given us that freedom.
So, what are we waiting for? Call out the things that are holding you and I back and say to them that they have no control over us! Do not be afraid to identify the things that are toxic and enslaving and seek help beyond what we can do ourselves. We are not alone and God will never abandon us. Hence, we should not be afraid to go beyond ourselves and what we think is holding us back or making us scared. Let us lay them down, but most important of all, to lay down ourselves, its ego and desire to be in control as to remain behind its own created “comfort zone” (even if those things are enslaving)! We have to allow God to change and transform our feebleness and its fears through the power of His grace for greater things by opening our hearts and offering everything that we have to His Sacred Heart. Do not be afraid to let the love of God permeates, heals, and changes our hearts like His own’s.
Our song as Christians is not of gloomy nor hopelessness, like people without joy and love, but one of everlasting, eternal, life-giving, and heart-changing “ALLELUIA,” praising the Lord for His faithful love. What He had done in the past is continue to be done in us if we open our hearts and allow Him to change us to become what we are always capable and called to be — willed, formed, loved into being, and given life through the love of God. Therefore, let our message not be one of unhappiness and full of worldly downcasts, of enslavements or fears due to our dependency on the things of this world, but one that is firmly grounded in the love of God and His life-changing grace. I hope you will join me today by offering to the Lord everything that we have as we lay them down in front of Him, coming to His love as we are, and asking Him to transform us with His loving grace.
Even though it might be painful in the beginning, hard to overcome the initial hurdles to get away from what we are so used to, and very trying as we choose to be committed, we know that the joy of the Lord is of something greater value than anything that this world and its addictive, enslaving, manipulative, emptied, trendy, temporary satisfaction or promises can ever give us. The joy of the Lord is hard because it does not always contain the euphoric feeling, emotion, or sentiment that we are so used to look for, however, it promises and gives the sense of deep peace that one can only understand and experience in grace. It gives us the true loving freedom to be who we truly are as children of God the Father, disciples of Jesus Christ, and capable instruments of the Holy Spirit. This freedom gives us the divine, transcendental, and real love that comes from the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This freedom gives us the true God-given identity that nothing in this world could ever fully explain or understand. Yet, this freedom can totally be achieved and is freely promised by the love of God for anyone who seeks it! Therefore, let us not be afraid to delve into the rich, beautiful, and deep love of Him who loves, frees, and transforms us with His everlasting faithfulness.