A reflection on the Sunday Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.
There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone simply means that I’m by myself and there’s no one else around. Most of you who live by yourself have felt the reality of aloneness. Most of you who live with your family have probably craved alone time at one time or another.
On the other hand, feeling lonely is different than being alone (although the two can go together). Loneliness is a subjective feeling of sadness, emptiness, and isolation. It is feeling a lack of intimate connection with other people; a feeling of not being loved or accepted by others. A person can be alone and not feel lonely at all. On the contrary, a person can be surrounded by a lot of friends and family and still feel lonely, still feel an accompanying sadness in the heart.
Why do I raise this distinction? Our Lord in the gospel today tells us that he is going to send another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. In two weeks, we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. But what he says of the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit will remain with us and will be in us. And then Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” In other words, he never leaves us alone; he’s always with us.
Knowing that our Lord was about to leave them, the Apostles were most likely feeling sadness. They may have been tempted to feel that sense of loneliness because they loved him. But he assures them that they will not be alone. He assures them that he will be with them. He tells them, “I live in you,” and that he will send the Holy Spirit to be our advocate, our consoler.
We can’t necessarily change the fact that we might be alone, but we can always allow God to heal our feelings of loneliness. How do we allow the Lord to overcome any feelings of loneliness we might have? Well, it’s by focusing on the theological and spiritual truth that Jesus proclaims in the gospel today: he sends the Holy Spirit to us, to be our consoler; he tells us that he lives in us, which means the Holy Trinity dwells in us by grace. This is what we believe: on the day we were baptized, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit came to live in us, to make their dwelling in our souls.
I’d encourage you to go within if you feel lonely. What do I mean? The saints, the masters of the spiritual life, tell us to meditate upon the presence of God within us (e.g. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Elizabeth of the Trinity). If God is within us, and we consciously through prayer became more and more aware of his loving presence within us, then the feeling of loneliness will begin to disappear.
True, the Christian may at times be alone, but the Christian never has to feel lonely because the Lord always keeps his promises. And he promises us that he will live in us, that he will always be with us.
Image: Adobe Stock. By katarinagondova.