Despite the great inventions of modern technology, especially in the field of social media, loneliness is rampant amongst us. For many reasons people are feeling lonely and, much more, rejected.
As the solemnity of Christmas is fast approaching and the plague of loneliness still pervades in our midst, it is high time to reflect not simply why all this is occurring but, and especially, what can we do to deal with it. A simple reflection about the mystery of Christmas can really help us in giving us a perspective and offers us tangible ways as to how we can better deal with our loneliness and that give our helping hand to those who feel lonely and abandoned.
To begin with, the subject matter of Christmas is the perfect antithesis of what loneliness is all about. In fact, whereas loneliness is associated with depression and a lack of social life Christmas is deeply rooted in God’s communion with us which fills us with his joy! How evocative is the message which the angel gave to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8). He announced to them: Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).
By becoming flesh and blood, like each and everyone of us, particularly in the person of Jesus Christ, God brought us great joy! This is so because he tangibly proved to us that He is truly the Emmanuel, … God with us (Matt 1:23). It is interesting that God revealed his powerful name, through an angel, within the context of a fearful situation. When Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant he already made his mind to divorce her quietly. Obviously, out of fear of putt[ing] her to shame (Matt 1:19). God’s reply to Joseph’s fear is all the more stunning. Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:20-21). In his omnipotence, God changes Joseph’s fearful loneliness into heroic courage. Thus, from a passive spectator and helpless agent God’s trust in Joseph put him at the forefront of salvation history! In all this who can not appreciate the fact that God empowers us by the complete trust He has in us? Only trust can really heal and restore our humanity.
And God can trust us because He, himself, is perfect trust! Pope Benedict XVI’s reflection on this point is really worth referring to! In the address he gave before praying the midday Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on June 12, 2006, the German Pontiff said:
“Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who helps us to understand the words of Jesus and guides us into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:13), believers can know, so to speak, the intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude, but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit — lover, beloved and love, to recall St. Augustine”.
Is this not what we need in our shattered world nowadays, holding dialogue with God and one another? Thanks to his incarnation Jesus taught us that we love God when we love each other: If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis tells us:
“There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others which truly heals instead of debilitating us, is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being…and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does…Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!” (EG 92).
Happy Christmas to everyone! (Until 6th January, we can still wish each other a Happy Christmas, and why not also after that date too? Editor’s note)
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap