Sixth Sunday after Easter
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
A young priest was once visiting with an elderly woman in his parish. She was in her eighties. He was in his thirties. In the process of getting acquainted, she told him a part of her life story.
It has not been easy. Her Husband had died years before. And after that, she had lived alone with very little money and too much time to herself. The priest was eager to make her feel comfortable and to understand her life experiences. So each time the woman paused in the telling of her story, he would say: YES, I KNOW, or YES, I UNDERSTAND. After several such responses, the woman could stand it no longer and said: YOUNG MAN, THERE IS ONE THING YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND…. AND THAT IS, THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE OLD AND LONELY!
Maybe the young priest needed to hear that. Sympathy requires honesty. Do not claim to understand something that is totally beyond your range of experience. But I think the old woman was only half right. The young priest certainly did not know what it was like to be 80 years old. But he could very well understand what it is like to be lonely…as this does not respect age or condition in life. Some of the loneliest people in the world, are those who have other people around them and plenty of money.
In today’s Gospel reading, the friends of Jesus were facing that reality. He had just told them that he would soon be leaving them, and that where he was going they could not follow. He had tried to tell them this on other occasions, but this time the message finally got through to them. The thought was almost unthinkable. They were feeling lonely already, and he hadn’t even left them yet. Jesus knew how they were feeling and so He promised them that He would not leave them orphans. I WILL COME BACK TO YOU he said. What he was really telling them was that there is only one way to effectively deal with loneliness….. and that is to actually have God in your daily life.
ALL OF OUR EARTHLY RELATIONSHIPS ARE NECESSARILY LIMITED. They can be a big help to us during our life, but they will never meet all of our needs. No friend, not love in our life, can answer all of our needs. We would like to think that a spouse, a child, a mother or father, or a very close mate would keep away loneliness, but not so. When you set your sights that high, you are heading for a terrible fall.
I have seen parents try to do that with their children. They cling to them refusing them the right to become independent. They call it love! The truth however is that the parents are using their children to fill the void in their own lives. The result is anger, frustration and retarded development for the parent and the child alike. (E.G. Jack Baisch). I have seen wives do that to their husbands and husbands do it to their wives. They ask more than a person can give.
No matter who it is: parent, child, lover, friend…all human relationships are limited. They can help with the problem of loneliness, but not completely. This was true even of Jesus and His disciples. In reading through the Gospels, it is easy to see that Jesus Himself was very lonely at times. He had needs that His disciples could not meet. E.G. Gethsemane.
Jesus told his disciples: I WILL ASK THE FATHER AND HE WILL SEND YOU ANOTHER ADVOCATE. We can bear the absence of others, only because of the presence of God in our lives.
In English, we say: GOOD BY……meaning, GOD BE WITH YOU. We are constantly saying GOOD BY to the people we love. Sometimes these separations are difficult and painful. They leave us with a sense of loneliness. But we can survive with knowing that God is still with us.
From God there is no parting. He goes everywhere we go. From Him, there are no secrets. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He never rejects us. He accepts us without reservations. Jesus Christ did not leave us with only ceremonies, memories and a good book. He has not left us at all. Even in our loneliness, we are not really alone, and never will be…..because Jesus walks with us each day of our lives.