Chadwick, Enid M. My Book of the Church’s Year. London: Mowbrays.
O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer (REC), 2005
On this Sunday, I returned to the small parish in southern Massachusetts that I served for four years. It was a different experience being there as a Priest Associate, rather than the Vicar.
The sermon focused on the act of listening to the Holy Spirit, especially when dealing with those who are caught in the vice grip of addiction. Knowing that the congregation includes members who have dealt either directly or indirectly with addiction, it was received relatively well. I am aware that some may have felt the sermon was a bit of a downer considering that Pentecost is usually a “happy” occasion.
There has been this overwhelmingly positive response to the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts in very recent years. Sentencing laws are being lessened. There is a refocus on health care facilities for addicts and an all hands on deck” response for those who may potentially overdose. It seems like every Tom, Dick and Harriet has a dosage of Narcan in their possession. There are scores of stories of addicts, neighbors, waitresses, nightclub bouncers and police officers administrating “the shot” to an overdose victim. All in all, it’s a positive response.
However, I’m concerned about the longevity of this compassionate response.
I highlighted the lack of care shown by the citizens of this nation towards those who were addicted to crack/cocaine in the 70s – 90s in the inner cities. In actuality, it was an adversarial response to addicts. And those addicts were disproportionately Black and poor.
They were not only laughed at (countless images of crackheads being lampooned on sitcoms), they were also feared (incarcerated at THE HIGHEST RATES IN THE WORLD). Television shows like Cops showed the inner city, “crackheads, welfare queens, and thug damaging America”. These “super-predators were destroying America!” This sort of response greatly damaged (perhaps destroyed) an entire generation of the Black race in the United States.
With this new response to the opioid epidemic that overwhelmingly impacts middle class whites in suburbia, one can not help but point the stark differences. In the end, this new compassionate approach is important. We are encouraged to listen to the Holy Spirit when it comes to the least of these. It is my hope and prayer that we continue to do so, rather than smother Her (the Holy Spirit) voice, like we did 30 years ago.