Loneliness feels awful. Loneliness is often accompanied by other feelings like emptiness, fear, anger, resentment and jealousy. Loneliness is created by death, separation and misunderstanding. Loneliness may set in when there is a big decision to be made, when we lose our job, begin a new job or move to a new place. Sometimes we feel like nobody understands us and that is a lonely place to be. At times, we feel alone in guilt over our wrongdoing or being the cause of someone else’s hurt. Who among us has not felt lonely in these days of the pandemic? We are isolated at home, unable to visit those we love, grieving over the deaths of family and friends and mourning the loss of pre-coronavirus living.
Jesus was aware of the human heart’s capacity to grow lonely. Sensing the loneliness his disciples would feel after his ascension to the Father, he assured them he would not leave them alone. He says, “I will not leave you orphaned, I will send you another Paraclete to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-21).” The disciples would not be alone after all. They would have a Comforter, a Consoler, the Holy Spirit.
Through Baptism and Confirmation, we are both the receivers and instruments of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in many ways. Maybe the Spirit is speaking to us through the encouraging words of a friend. Sometimes we are the friend that speaks the encouraging words. The Spirit is present through a breakthrough understanding, newfound courage or a solution to a problem.
The best way for us to be open to the work of the Spirit is to be consolers for each other. This means that we look beyond our pain enough to notice when somebody else is hurting. When we are in pain, the first thing we need is not a problem solver. We long to know we are not alone. The consoling presence of another person is what is needed. We know how true this is when we think of times when all we wanted was the reassurance of a warm embrace or someone’s hand in ours. Those comforting embraces or hands in ours are not so plentiful these days. At the same time, the virtual embrace of a phone call, text message or lovely greeting card could be the channels for reassuring somebody else that we are there.
We lonely prone people are not alone. We have a Comforter, a Consoler, the Holy Spirit. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to make that holy presence known. Who might we know that could use some holy consolation this very moment?
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher H. Smith