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Have You Seen Breaking Bad?

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It is the 10th anniversary of a show that was really popular on television called “Breaking Bad.” It is really popular on Netflix for many people to binge watch.

Unfortunately, I have become one of those people.

It is a television show about a high school science teacher. He is diagnosed with a type of brain cancer that is terminal.  He faces a big dilemma of how he, as a father, is going to provide for, not only his treatments but for his family, after he dies.

He gets into the crystal-meth making business and starts making and selling drugs.  He gets into this kind of whole underworld. As one would expect, by the title “Breaking Bad,” he is faced with a lot of choices that lead him down some very bad paths.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the show, and also that drove me nuts about the show, is that this man was given every single opportunity to turn away from it.

Time and time again, in every season, almost every episode, he was given some kind of grace, some benefactor – his wife or his brother-in-law – someone that would get Hank off of this bad path that he was on, and back onto the good path.

In our county today, we are just raising awareness about the heroin epidemic that is going on right now, and the drug epidemic that is going on, especially with opioids.  It is one of the things we are asked to address. I can’t help but think about The Gospel today with Jesus.

He was going around and healing these people, and they bring before Him this man that is possessed. When Jesus says “Come out of him,” the body of this person actually convulses and the spirit leaves him.

It makes me remember one of the powerful scenes in this show where somebody was dying of a heroin overdose and just what it was doing to them: breaking them down physically, emotionally, spiritually, just completely destroying them.

What we see is what happens when somebody chooses badly repeatedly. His life just continues down this downward spiral. Not only is his life ruined, but his families’ life is ruined, and just about anyone he comes into contact with, their life is ruined.

There is one character, Jessie, who is a high school dropout. The main character takes him in under his wing, kind of adopts him as a son to him. This character has this redeemable quality. You just love him and you want him to make it. You want him to get out of this horrible situation he is in. You are rooting for him during the whole thing.

It is interesting because the writers are now reflecting back on 10 years later of the series. The interviewer was asking them, “How did you develop that whole character?  What did you think was going to happen to him at the end?” It was interesting because they said there were many paths he could have gone down. We continued to write and think, “What would Jessie do at this moment?  Is there something redeemable in him?” I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it.

As we hear in our Readings, and as we believe in our Faith, there is always something redeemable in us. We are never so far that we cannot be restored or healed.

I think heroin is one of those drugs. The reality of heroin is it that it is so deadly that if you do it and continue to do it, it will lead to your death. Actually, that’s with all addiction – if you do it and continue to do it, it will lead to your death.

Yet God continues to provide us with ways out. Maybe you know someone that is struggling with an addiction. Or maybe you yourself are sitting in the pew right here struggling with an addiction.

God is always providing a way out. Time and time and time again He is reaching out to you.

We hear that in the Responsorial Psalm today: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”

Today you can hear God’s voice and He can save you from anything, but harden not your heart. Don’t let your heart be hard when you hear His voice. What you see in the lead character in “Breaking Bad” is he becomes a harder and harder and harder guy. His pride gets more and more and more strong.

We hear in the Second Reading, “Brothers and Sisters, I should like you to be free from anxieties.”

God doesn’t want us to live this life with so much weight on us, with the hopelessness of addiction. He wants us to be free of anxieties.

Finally, we hear in the Gospel, Jesus speaks with great authority.

This is the wonderful thing about our Church and about all of you who are Baptized. You have the same power in your Baptism that Jesus did. You have the same authority over evil that Jesus did. We are not powerless when it comes to addictions. We are powerless by ourselves, but not with the authority that comes through Jesus Christ.

Just as Jesus was able to rebuke the spirit and command him to come out of him – we have that same authority. I think it is so important that we are aware that God is constantly trying to free us. He is constantly in a thousand and one ways every day trying to free us from any sin or any addiction or any struggle that we may be having and bring us back ultimately to Him.

As we just become aware of this, I invite you to think about your own lives, your own families, and if there is anyone who is struggling, maybe this is God giving you the nudge right now to do some kind of intervention, to reach out in some way to be the voice of God for them, to be Jesus for them to help break the addiction.

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.