Being active in Public Life improves our mental health & makes the Resurrection a frequent event in life
For good emotional health, everyone needs a spiritual framework to deal with the big questions: Who am I? What’s the point of life? Where am I going? How do I make sense of suffering?
For Christians, we have our Faith in God, through the life of Jesus Christ. Our Faith, with our religious community, helps us deal with the pain we pick up through life. It helps us keep a good perspective and leads to healing if we are honest enough.
The events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, remind us every year that, with Faith and good works, we can overcome all obstacles, and leave the past behind. We know Jesus Christ left all bitterness behind, because there is no room in Heaven for anger.
In our modern world today, people who believe in religion are reducing. But many come over Easter and are reminded that we have a reason to Hope.
The good news is that Heaven begins here on earth, and not just when we die. But, when we are surrounded by war in Ukraine and Myanmar, suffering and corruption in many parts of Africa, how can we experience Heaven on earth?
The answer is: we have to create it. God and us are like a parent with a child. A parent cannot walk for the child: the child must struggle, fail and try until they succeed. The parents give love, encouragement and food until they can walk.
The same for us: God helps us, but we have to do the hard work to create Heaven on earth. The events of Easter remind us of the need for sacrifice & patience before resurrections happen.
Now, if Heaven begins on earth, why do so many people have mental health problems? Research shows us a direct link between mental health issues and our participation in Public Life. Sitting at home and waiting for “likes” on our Facebook posts does not help us.
That means, the more we retreat into our small worlds (look after me), the more mental health issues we will have. Conversely, the more we participate in public life the less mental health issues arise. Of course, there must be a balance between duties at home and public life.
So, how do we participate in Public Life? Through volunteering (fire, food kitchens, etc.), local community meetings (street celebrations, neighbourhood watch), school parent meetings and activities (make school better for kids), and especially through Church.
Why especially through Church? Because our Catholic Church, in particular, participates in multiple areas of public life:
1) community life – drawing us outside of our private worlds;
2) listen to & encourage each other – learning new ways of addressing challenges;
3) building friendships supporting us in the good and bad times;
4) building schools – and helping the next generation;
5) reaching out to help others in need (collections, visits to the elderly, etc.); and
6) contribute as a collective, to political debate and public policies;
7) helping special groups form to focus on community needs – eg. homeless people.
On top of all those good things, our Church life helps us in our inner minds and hearts: our Faith, and the Readings we hear each week, help correct the direction of our lives.
Our Faith helps us deal with the emotional need to BELONG: families come and go, school comes and goes, but God never leaves us through the Church which goes on and on.
And, at the end of our lives, our Faith helps us when our loved ones pass on to eternal life. The Resurrection of Christ confirms our Hope that we will be reunited with them.
All of us need a large portion of our lives to be in Public Life: raising the family, being part of the local community and schools, and contributing to public debate. If we don’t, we’ll lose Hope in the future and become one of those who say: “the world is going to the dogs!”
At different times of our lives, for various reasons, we may lose faith in the Church, but let’s pray that we never lose the discipline to be active in Public Life. At times we may feel tired, but let’s be inspired by people like Nick Vujicic, the man with no arms or legs who spends his life encouraging school students and many others.
May peace be with you and help you be free of your pain.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI