By Father Christopher Heanue
The Lord proclaims in the Book of Genesis after the creation of Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18). He decides to create a “helper suited to him.” None of the wild animals or birds of the air proves to be a fitting companion for Adam. God therefore creates a woman, Eve, out of one of the man’s ribs. Adam recognizes in her someone like himself, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.
In the words of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, human beings are by nature “social animals.” As Catholics, we recognize that God made us that way. He created our first parents for friendship and communion with Him and with one another. He has created all of us for the same friendship and communion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has often made it difficult for us to nurture our relationships with our loved ones and friends. Some people have experienced loneliness during these difficult moments. Loneliness is a terrible thing because it can lead to depression and despair. It is in those dark moments when one is vulnerable to the deception of the evil one in thinking that we are unloved or, worse, unlovable. Yet, it is important to recognize that the pandemic has also given us opportunities to reach out and to support one another, often using electronic means.
Occasionally, people ask me whether priestly celibacy leads to loneliness. Sometimes, they even quote that same passage: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Without entering into the theological discussions of celibacy and the century of church teachings on the issue, I reply to them, quite honestly, that I have never felt alone as a priest. I have always experienced the companionship, love, and support of my parishioners and have enjoyed the fraternity among priests in our diocese and beyond.
While I have never felt alone, I have, at times, felt lonely. Everyone experiences loneliness at one time or another, whether one is single, celibate, widowed, or even married.
Pope Francis, speaking on the topic of loneliness, once said, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept His offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
Whenever one experiences loneliness, one must turn to Jesus Christ. He became one of us through the Incarnation so that He could walk with us on this journey of life and offer Himself on the Cross for our sins.
Our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that He: “ ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels,’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (2:9).
Similarly, St. Paul tells us that Christ, “emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave and being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7-8).
The Lord Jesus is with us always, especially in moments of loneliness. If we nurture a true friendship with Him through prayer, we will never truly be alone.
Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark: 10:2-16 or 10:2-12
Father Heanue is the Rector-Pastor of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights.