5th Sunday of Easter 2023
The readings this weekend remind us that we are not alone. In the first reading, we hear about the early Christian community coming together to support one another, even amidst conflict and challenges.
In the Gospel, Jesus at the Last Supper assures his disciples that they will never be alone, that he will always be with them:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled…You have faith in God; have faith also in me…where I am you also may be….Where I am going you know the way."
And in the second reading, Peter reminds us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own.
But despite this sense of community, loneliness is a serious issue that affects many of us. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, recently issued an advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in America, warning that lacking social connection can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The report finds that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness.
As Christians, we are called to love and care for one another. We are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own," called to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.
But how can we fulfill this calling if we are disconnected from one another and struggling with loneliness?
The Surgeon General advises us to prioritize meaningful relationships and to take the time to reconnect with people. We can start by taking just 15 minutes each day to contact a friend or a relative, showing them how much we value them by being authentic and "being real" when we're connecting with them.
We can reach out to lonely people and offer our support, just as the early Christian community supported one another in the face of conflict and challenges.
He also says you can serve others. Studies show that volunteering can ease feelings of loneliness and broaden our social networks. Consider donating your time to an organization in your community, or offering to help your family, co-workers or friends.
“When we help other people we establish an experience or a connection with them — but we also remind ourselves of the value that we bring to the world,” Dr. Murthy said.
Like Gus Hardy. Gus Hardy was born with autism and has found it difficult to connect with others naturally. However, he has chosen to serve others through his work at the Poverello Center, the largest homeless shelter in the state of Montana.
In a moving essay, Gus writes:
"Whenever I consider my possible life plans, they are always in the context of serving others... A life of service can be difficult, and having a disorder that biologically wires one to have a hard time being with others does not help.
But I am hoping that the fact that I'm out here, pushing myself to both serve and understand others must mean that I care all the more."
Despite his struggles, Gus has found purpose in his life through God-centered service.
Let us follow his example and take the time to connect with one another, to reach out to those who may be struggling with loneliness, and to embrace our calling as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own.