A married couple from Christian Family Camp shared a story of a time when their daughter was struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. I knew about the disease, but I did not know how tough it is. Statistics say that between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. And that it has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition. They did all the right things as parents. They:
• Sought out medical help.
• They read all they could about the disease.
• Went to shared counseling with their daughter.
• Went to individual counseling.
• Got people to pray with and for them.
• Got people to pray with and for their daughter.
They did everything in the book that parents need to do for their daughter. But they also did something else that they say made all the difference, at least for them.
They composed a list of “Go To” scripture passages, lines from the bible that they would take up as a kind of mantra on a given day, to help ‘feed’ and sustain their spirits. If it was a good day, usually they found something from the book of Psalms: “Lord our God, how great is your name in all the earth.” If it was a tough day, they’d go to the words of St. Paul: “I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the Love of God.” When they were tempted to despair of any progress or healing, they’d pull out the words of Jesus: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Anytime the road seemed dark, and the prognosis was not good, and they were having a tough time of it, they’d pull out that list, and they’d find the passage that seemed to fit the need and the day, and they would just kind of ‘wear’ that passage like a garment. They’d repeat it over and over, letting it bring rest to their souls, and calmness to their fears, and light to the struggle. And though their daughter has made a complete recovery (rare in this disease) the list STILL remains on their refrigerator door, as a foundation of their spiritual journey.
What are your ‘go to’ scripture passages? I ask because my friends were not the only ones to have such a list. In today’s gospel, you hear three of Jesus’ “GO TO” passages – words of scripture that he has memorized, ready to pull out when times were tough, when he was tempted to lose sight of the bigger picture of God’s love, tempted to do things his way, tempted to rely on his own power and not God’s.
And all three of them say the same thing, don’t they?
• One does not live on bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God.
• You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.
• The Lord your God, you shall worship, and him alone you shall serve.
They say: “God, my life is not my own. Nor is it mine to decide what truly feeds my spirit. Or to decide what is good. Or to let ME be the arbiter of power, the center of everything.” And like a mantle of protection, like clothes that are worn to keep one warm from the winter’s cold, like an umbrella to keep the rain away, his Go-To passages allow him to be faithful to who he knows himself to be, and who he knows his God to be.
If you have such a list, pull it out. Post in on the refrigerator door. If not, I invite you to find four “go-to” passages to carry YOU through this Lenten Season. (Internet – a easy shortcut)
One for PERSPECTIVE – who are you and who is God;
One for OBEDIENCE – to keep you, like Jesus, not putting God to the test;
One for PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING – to acknowledge the blessings of the days and years;
And one for TRUST – that you might not fear the dark times.
(at the 11 am mass only)
CONFIRMATION STUDENTS: Chose one “GO TO passage in preparation for the day of confirmation: perhaps from Timothy – “Stir into the flame the gifts of the spirit you received with the imposition of hands.” Perhaps something else..
CONFIRMATION SPONSORS: pick one phrase for your candidate, symbolic of your desire for them in their spiritual life.
Matthew reports that, after Jesus uses his ‘Go-To’ passages, “The devil left him, and behold, angels ministered to him.” That is what my friends knew in that two year journey with their daughter’s illness. It is what I have known in my life as a priest and a believer. The devil flees, and angels come and minister. And that is what you and I are invited to discover during these forty days…