Sunday, 13 May 2018

Loneliness, 7th Sunday of Easter, Year B

Jn 17:11-19
I want to say some words today about loneliness.
On one level, loneliness is one of the basic human conditions.  We are made for love, and yearn for something that will satisfy this. Thus Genesis describes Adam, alone amongst all the animals, looking for a soulmate, lonely without one.  
On another level, as study after study sadly shows, loneliness is particularly a feature of our modern age.
We see it in youth today. Studies point to mobile phones and tablets in this regard -youth connected to their devices, but tragically isolated in their rooms, and statistically vastly more likely to be lonely than just a decade ago.
At the other end of the age spectrum, many of the elderly among us can speak of a different loneliness. 
And, in between, you can be lonely at work; lonely in marriage.
Loneliness is one of features of human existence.

I want to take this I two directions: thinking of God, and, thinking of our parish community.
In the Gospel text we heard the Lord Jesus praying to the Father.  He spoke about being “one” with Him.  This is very important in the context of loneliness.
God is one, in Himself. Yet, He is also a community of three persons -never alone, never lonely.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit -always existing in love and in relationship.
We are made in His image.  
We are made to love and to be loved.  
In as much as we fail to experience these two things we are lonely. 
The solution, at its deepest level, is to be drawn into the love of God, to be one with Him.  Thus the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, “may they be one like us”.
Thus spiritual loneliness can be addressed by a regular life of prayer, regular contact with God in His Bible and in His sacraments, 
at Mass for union with Him, 
at Confession for healing our disunion from Him.
In this regard, it is possible to be physically alone, but, not feel lonely.  There is a difference between being PHYSICALLY alone and FEELING lonely.  You can feel lonely in the midst of a crowd; you can feel content by yourself.
I can remember life in my last parish: I was physically more isolated than in my entire life, in the rural countryside, far from friends and family, yet rarely did I feel lonely.

That was one direction of thinking with respect to loneliness: God.
Another direction is our parish life.  There is much that can be done in a parish to ease physical loneliness, and I want to point to two particular things in our parish culture in this regard.

The first, is the hugely important work that our SVP group do here in the parish.  Among the needs they address is visiting the housebound. This is an important way for us, as a parish community, to be helping combat loneliness.  
Yet, I’m aware that we need more SVP members to do this work.  And so I would like to take this as an opportunity to appeal for more people to join.  If you’re interested, sign the sheet in the porch or speak to an SVP member after Mass.

The second, concerning Mass. Some of those who used to welcome people at Mass by standing in the porch and offering people a newsletter are now too infirm to do so.  
I’d like to therefore appeal for more people to volunteer for this important role.  It would be good to have a team at each of the 3 Masses to do this in rotation.  If you’re willing, please sign the sheet in the porch.

These are two very particular things, but both relating to how we function as a parish community to help ease loneliness. 

So, in summary, the Lord Jesus prayed that we might be one as He and the Father are one in the Spirit.
We are made for love and made to feel loved.
We can help each other as a parish community by addressing physical loneliness.
But the deepest cause of loneliness in the human heart can only be addressed by our union with God.

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