August 6, 2020
by Director of Mission, Mr Geoff Brodie
A common human experience is the sense of connection one enjoys in quiet and solitary moment with nature. It may be the sunrise or sunset enjoyed on a beach or hilltop with no-one else around. Alternatively, it may be listening to running water and birds, uninterrupted by any other sound. In any case, the depth of the moment is the connection we feel to everything around us. We may be alone, but we are certainly not lonely. In contrast, each of us may recall a time when we are surrounded by many people to whom we feel no connection. We can walk crowded city streets and feel very much alone.
What I have recalled is no great insight. The contrast of being alone and being lonely, portrayed in many films, novels, and poems, is an experience inherent in our shared human nature. Perhaps knowing this should be an antidote to loneliness in itself – we always and everywhere share the same human nature with its deep desire for connection, even if at times it remains unfulfilled. However, the shared and common challenge of loneliness is before us again as we face six weeks of lockdown.
So, it was with a sense of divine timing we were offered the readings at last Sunday’s Mass. St Paul, writing to the faithful in Rome, reassures them (and us!) that love confronts and transforms loneliness at every turn:
Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.
For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35. 37-39)
As a Catholic community we are created by the love of God made visible in Jesus, and to know this creates the connection that would endure a lifetime of lockdown. When we do not merely notice the thoughts and actions of others, but share their hopes, struggles, joy and fears, and respond in prayer to Jesus, asking that every person receive the grace they need, we are connected beyond the physical distance we are experiencing. Let us all take our feelings, challenges, and desires to Jesus in prayer so that we are connected at the deepest level of our hearts. By the nature and power of love, when we live in prayer the cares and concerns of others will become ours, and our joy and fears will become the experience of everyone. United in love, nothing can come between us. This is no psychological trick of positive thinking. This is the reality of the Christian fact.
In Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 14:13-21) Jesus wishes to retreat from the crowds after hearing of John the Baptist’s death. But the crowds follow him, and it is important to dwell on the response of Jesus. Despite his desire to grieve alone for a while, he responds to the needs of the people. He heals the sick and feeds the crowds with the five loaves and two fish. Let that be our response to this lockdown. Let us find ways of listening to the needs of others. In listening to understand others we are loving them. Let our priority be the healing gift of loving presence for our family and friends. Let us nourish their days with our hope and endurance in Jesus. It is the one sun we all see rise and set each day. Out of love, let no-one fall into the loneliness of lockdown and the traps of impersonal, functional communication. Speak with someone for no other purpose than to abide in their company. For that is love. And in love, we shall never be separated and lonely. For Jesus reassures us: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. (Matt 28:20)