11/05/2022 – Loneliness

There are a multitude of reasons and circumstances for experiencing loneliness. Being Christians or people of faith does not of itself exempt us from the very human experience of loneliness. Nor does it exempt us from the difficulty of sharing such experiences.

Perhaps a key question that lies behind our experience of loneliness is that of belonging. In particular it may be of help to remind myself where, or to whom do I belong, and to consider how this is manifest?

As Christians we first and foremost belong to Christ the good Shepherd (Jn 10:27-30). At our baptism we were claimed for Christ. As members of Christ’s body, the Church, we also belong to each other. This belonging manifests itself in the sharing of our gifts, the bearing of one another’s burdens and weaknesses of mind or body (as St Benedict puts it) and sometimes for the sake of love and the common good, correcting each other. In striving to live in this way, we are invited to encounter Christ, to be known by Christ, to put our trust in Christ, and to follow Christ. As the reading at Night Prayer states ‘You are in our midst, we are called by your name. Do not desert us, O Lord our God.’(Jer 14:9)

But we know all too well that the Church is not perfect since it is made up of weak and highly fallible people. Pope Francis likes to refer to the church as a “field hospital”. It is comprised of wounded individuals in need of healing who, with God’s help, go beyond themselves looking outwards, to welcome and walk alongside others with the eyes and ears of compassion. Love he says always looks to go beyond itself. This he says is why monastic communities from earliest times were inspired to offer hospitality with the utmost care and attention.

In todays’ fractured and war torn world and in the wake of the pandemic, we do not have to look very far or hard to find people who feel, isolated, alone, or disconnected in some way. The question we might ask ourselves anew is this. To whom can I be a neighbour?

Br Anthony