With increasing numbers of people isolated because of quarantine and social distancing, COVID-19 is not the only public health threat we should be worried about. Loneliness is one as well.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul wrote, “No one will live for himself, nor will he die for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord, which means that whether in life or in death, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8)
We are not meant to be alone at any time in life or even in death. And, indeed, we are not alone. Christ is always with us—certainly if we accept His presence—and because we are with Him, we are in the presence of others who are also with Him.
Although there are some people who feel lonely all the time, everyone is lonely some of the time. At one time or another, we may even think it is nice to live alone, so as to not be bothered. No one interferes with us or tells us what to do. We could do as we please.
But is loneliness what we desire? To be alone means that we are not bothered by others, but it also means we do not receive assistance from others. To be alone means that no one tells us what to do, but it also means that we do not receive good and useful suggestions.
The fact is, God did not create us in order to be alone. He created us to live together and seek out others. But because we are born sinners, we cannot live together in solidarity as we should. And so instead of helping each other, we often hurt one another. Instead of giving, we take. Thus, we prevent ourselves from being what we were destined to be, and we also, in turn, prevent others from fully realizing themselves.
Yes, it is difficult to be lonely. Ask those who live in a nursing home. Ask patients on hospital deathbeds with eyes expressing longing to expire. Ask those dying daily in an endless sea of boredom, but are physically among multitudes of bodies. Ask, and they will tell you that it is difficult to live in loneliness and ten times worse to die in loneliness.
Seven months ago, we faced such a situation in New York. A parishioner had completely isolated himself from others. He lived in solitude, and he died in solitude. I conducted the burial with no witnesses present.
Beloved ones, even when we are living alone, let us always remain in touch with our family, friends and the church.
And it was for these circumstances that Christ said, “Always envision yourselves with your friends, and when you feel alone or abandoned, do not expect others to come to you, but take the first step yourself. Banish loneliness and always remember that you exist in the world to help others. Be assured that He will help us because God is always with us.” Amen.