Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24
Sometimes we feel that itch inside that not everything is quite right. We know, deep down, somewhere that not all is right with the world, that it ought to be a little different than it is. One of the most painful aches of the human heart is one that most of us experience at one time or another: Loneliness. In this Sunday’s first reading, we take a hard look at human loneliness from God’s perspective and find an interesting remedy that hints at the solution to the crisis of solitude.
Can you imagine being the first human being on planet Earth? All by yourself, looking around at the beautiful things you find, having plenty of resources, but always aware in the pit of your stomach that you’re the only one here? It might be easier to imagine being the last person on Earth, surviving after some terrible disaster, but longing for a return to brighter days. Being the first is different. You would be looking forward, not back, longing for something that you couldn’t quite put your finger on.
The Meaning of Being Alone
Yet being alone is not all bad. Solitude has a way of sharpening the mind, of letting us forget the constant distractions, of allowing us a quiet space simply to be. In that quietness, aloneness, we can if we try, find ourselves. That is, we can become conscious of “who I am,” achieving a level of self-knowledge that is unobtainable in the hustle-bustle of daily life. Going on a silent retreat, or even just on long walk, can help us reach that place of knowing who I am. Being alone can also help us come to a consciousness of “what (or who) I am for.” We often talk about “what” my mission is, or “what” I do for a job, but when we have those most meaningful conversations about what really matters to me, how I see my life as important or making a contribution, our minds almost always turn to “who’s” not “what’s,” to people, not things. If you ask your friend about what is most important to him, he will not likely talk about his prized possessions, but about his wife, his children, his parents, his friends. When we find ourselves all alone, we can come to a deeper realization of “who I am for,” the people I am called to love, the family I am meant to serve. In an upside-down way, solitude helps us focus on what really matters, and what really matters is other people. Solitude should not draw us into ourselves, but out of ourselves. The deeper we realize “who I am,” the more we come to know “who I am for.”