Archive for February, 2012

Celebrate 10 Years of One Story at the Literary Debutante Ball

28 February 2012 - By

Tickets are now on sale for the One Story Literary Debutante Ball. The One Story Literary Debutante Ball is a benefit celebrating One Story’s 10th anniversary and seven writers who have published their first books in the past year. The ball will feature cocktails, music, dancing, and a silent art auction.

One Story will also be honoring best-selling author Ann Patchett at the ball for her exceptional support of other writers.

All proceeds will benefit One Story, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and aid it in its mission to support the art form of the short story and the authors who write them. Tickets for the ball start at $75 each.

The One Story Literary Debutante Ball will be held on Friday, April 20th from 7-11 pm at the The Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen St. (between Court St. & Smith St.), Brooklyn, NY. You may purchase your tickets on-line at One Story.

Polish American Historical Association Call for Nominations

28 February 2012 - By

The Polish American Historical Association (PAHA) has issued a call for nominations for various awards and a young scholar grant. All nominations should be sent to the Chair of the Awards Committee, Dr. Stephen Leahy (Shantou University, China).

Young scholar award nominations must be received by May 1, 2012.

Graduate Student Research Paper Award recognizes a substantial original research paper on Polish-American history and culture produced by a young scholar in the humanities or social sciences. This award includes a $500 travel grant to present the paper at PAHA’s 2013 Annual Meeting. The candidate for the award must be a graduate student at the time of the application or nomination.

The following award nominations must be received by July 15, 2012.

Mieczyslaw Haiman Award is offered annually to an American scholar for sustained contribution to the study of Polish Americans.

Oskar Halecki Prize recognizes an important book or monograph on the Polish experience in the United States. Eligibility is limited to works of historical and/or cultural interest, including those in the social sciences or humanities, published in the two years prior to the year of the award.

Skainy Civic Achievement Award honors individuals or groups who advance PAHA’s goals of promoting research and awareness of the Polish-American experience and/or have made significant contributions to Polish or Polish-American community and culture.

Amicus Poloniae Award recognizes significant contributions enhancing knowledge of Polish and Polish-American heritage by individuals not belonging to the Polish-American community.

Distinguished Service Award is given occasionally to a member of PAHA who has rendered valuable and sustained service to the organization.

Kulczycki Prize recognizes outstanding scholarship in a dissertation about the Polish experience in America. The Award includes a subvention to help the winner publish their work.

Creative Arts Award recognizes the contributions in the field of creative arts by individuals or groups who have promoted an awareness of the Polish experience in the Americas.

Kulczycki Prize recognizes an important dissertation on the Polish experience in the United States offered to a graduate student or younger scholar within the first five years after awarding of the doctorate degree to assist in the publication of a book or monograph.

Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

26 February 2012 - By

Hey, this is my boat!
You cannot go alone…

“God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.”

Consider Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter – what do all these, and the rest of the heroes of the Bible have in common? They were all members of a family.

Our Lenten theme is all about family. We see that God makes His promises not just to one person, but to the human family.

God always deals with family, with people’s relationships with each other. God isn’t building His kingdom on hermits and loners. Rather, He is looking to us as His children, and a single body (the body of Christ), as a community that is defined as a family.

Remember that Jesus always referred to His Father as our Father. This wasn’t some sort of light saying, just to make us feel good. Jesus meant what He said. His Father is our Father.

Jesus came to rebuild His Father’s family and He did so on Calvary – reconnecting us to God.

God is our Father, and we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. This makes us His family and family to each other. We have even taken the steps necessary to be born into that family, through the waters of Baptism, by our regeneration.

There’s a lot to study this Lent, so let us begin our focus on the fact that we are members of one body – the Church, the body of Christ, and that makes us one family. With that comes a knowledge of how we were born into this family, how are related, how we relate to the Father, Jesus, and each other, our responsibilities as family members, our importance to the family, and the inheritance that is in store for members of God’s family.

Brother, or brethren, is found 319 times in the New Testament. Child, or children, is used 168 times in the New Testament. God didn’t send Noah onto the boat alone, and doesn’t make His promises to only a select few. His promises are for all of us as a family. He doesn’t want us to go it alone. He is our loving Father.

First Sunday of Lent 2012

26 February 2012 - By

First reading: Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm: Ps 25:4-9
Epistle: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

“God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.”

Families:

Consider Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter – what do all these, and the rest of the heroes of the Bible all have in common? They were all members of families.

Noah had his wife, his sons and their families. Abraham had Sarah and their son Isaac. Isaac had Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob. Jacob had Rachel and Leah, and his seven sons including Joseph. From the Old Testament to the New, we see family.

Think too of all the words used in the Bible to denote family. The New Testament mentions brother, or brethren, 319 times and child, or children, is used 168 times. Everything we see of God’s revelation comes to us through the lens of family.

Theme:

Our Lenten theme is all about family. We will work though this Lent learning about God’s promises – promises made to the body of Christ, the family of faith. Our first reading, where God makes promises to Noah and his family, his descendants, is a foreshadowing of the way God relates to us as family.

God wants us as family:

God always deals with family, with people’s relationships to Him and each other. God isn’t building His kingdom on hermits and loners. Rather, He is looking to us as His children, and a single body — the body of Christ. God’s family is more than just the individual believer, a local community or church — it is all the faithful, past, present, and future joined together as family.

Remember that Jesus always referred to His Father as our Father. This wasn’t some sort of light saying, just to make us feel good. Jesus meant what He said. His Father is our Father. Jesus even taught us to pray, invoking the Father.

But its tough:

The way God set everything up can be tough at times. Family relationships aren’t always easy. You remember the old saying: “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Sometimes that’s said after a family member has disappointed us or let us down. Still, they are family, and we offer forgiveness and reconciliation to our family. That is the model for the entire Christian family. We are all related together in that way, and we share in one body and one blood – the blood of Jesus Christ.

The key is that family is central to our lives as Christians. This unity, in family, makes us stronger, heals our wounds, brings us joy, and allows us to support each other in tough times.

Reconnecting:

Jesus’ entire ministry was centered on revealing the Father to us. He came to rebuild His Father’s family and He accomplished that on Calvary. There He broke down the enmity between God and man. He healed our separation, our distance from God. There He reconnected us to God, and joined us together.

God is our Father, and we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. This makes us His family and family to each other. No one is excluded or outside the family, and our arms are open to all who wish to enter our family. They can come, just as we did, to be born into God’s family through the waters of Baptism, by regeneration.

Road ahead:

There’s a lot to study this Lent. Today we have focused on the fact that God’s model, God’s way, is that we live as family. He is our Father, Jesus is our brother. We are members of one body – the Church which is the body of Christ. We have been born into this family and that same birth is available to all. Anyone can join God’s family by accepting Him.

From here we will learn about our relatedness, how we relate to the Father, Jesus, and each other and the things that mark, or indicate that relationship. We will learn about our responsibilities as family members. We will consider our importance to the family. We will learn about the gifts that come from being members of God’s family. Finally, we will rejoice in the victory we have been given by the inheritance that is in store for members of God’s family.

We are family:

God didn’t send Noah onto the boat alone, and He hasn’t given His promises to a few individuals who exist apart and alone. His promises and His love are for all of us as members of a family. God is our loving Father, and we are His children, brothers and sisters of Christ and each other. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

22 February 2012 - By

First reading: Joel 2:12-18
Psalm: Ps 51:3-6,12-14,17
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart

Focus (this morning):

Today, the first day of Lent. After three weeks of preparation you would think I would wake up ready to go. Well, this morning was not that kind of morning. Instead of waking prepared with Lent in my heart and mind, I woke in a haze. I focused on what I normally am, rather than what I should be becoming. I was self-focused. In the midst of preparing chicken and baloney sandwiches it finally hit me — it is Ash Wednesday.

It wasn’t just the no meat Lenten sacrifice, it was the sudden realization that I had a long way to go this Lent. It would be a journey from inward self-sufficiency, self-focus, to becoming emptied.

Emptiness:

Think of an iron bar. It is strong, complete, self-sufficient. You cannot add anything to it or change its nature. It is what it is.

Think now of a musical instrument: woodwinds, brass, guitars, or violins. These instruments are hollow. Their emptiness is intentional. These instruments are empty so that they may reflect what their master does – produce and echo music that is beautiful.

For my part, and for many of us, we exist like iron bars. We are who we are. We feel rather complete and total, solid, self-sufficient. Our task this Lent is to change from iron bars to musical instruments.

Process of emptying:

Lent is a process of emptying, of moving from the iron bar to a state of emptiness, away from self to becoming a reflection of God’s music, God’s light, God’s way.

Full of God:

In Lent we work to empty ourselves so that we become full of God. We work to reflect His light and His music. We recognize once again that He is the Master of our lives. We wipe the sleep from our eyes and clear the fog from our heads so that we can see our lives as part of God’s life; God who exists within us and within our brothers and sisters.

We are not separated, God here, us there. We are unified, together.

Lent gives us the opportunity to have God once again permeate, fill, encompass and saturate our thoughts and actions, our words, our deeds.

St. Paul reminds us that we cannot be self-sufficient iron bars because:

He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:15).

We have to live with a focus on being filled by God.

Full of family:

If you read the sign outside the church, you will note that our theme for Lent is God’s cell therapy. In Jesus we have been changed from a random group of individuals to adopted children of God, and brothers and sisters in faith. Our old mortal cells are being replaced and we are a new being, a new people, and members of one family of faith in Jesus Christ.

We must empty ourselves so that we become better family members. This is not just to our immediate or biological family, but to all the members of the family of God.

Throughout Lent we will focus on what makes us family, as well as the joys and responsibilities as members of the family of God.

Reconciling family:

Today we begin the process of reconciling, of emptying ourselves. Things like our Lenten self denial and sacrifice are makers along the road toward our becoming the people we ought to be. We are changing from iron bars – but we will not become empty, music-less instruments either. We will become, by the time we reach Easter, and for the days ahead in our lives, members of God’s family, each others brothers and sisters, and gloriously, the reflection of God’s light and music in the world.

Inheritance:

Our work, the road ahead is not without a promised reward. That promise is from God – that we will enter life everlasting as one family, as one people, as God’s children and as brothers and sisters. We have our inheritance before us. It won’t be paid out to iron bars, but to family filled with the light and music of God. Amen.

Quinquagesima Sunday

19 February 2012 - By

First reading: Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22,24-25
Psalm: Ps 41:2-5,13
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

On the river:

Bill lives about thirty minutes from a river that’s a major salmon run in the summer. He loves fishing, casting long lines into quick currents, and when a beautiful, ready to eat fish hooks on, the fight can be fun and furious.

Bill has learned a lot in fishing, particularly about his relationship with the fish. Bill knows that going to the river to just watch fish go by is low risk, and there is little tension. The fish do their thing, he does his, and life is good.

Now, if Bill tosses a line out the whole game changes. Suddenly he’s a hunter, a seeker. He wants a relationship with a passing fish, or two, or three. Creating this relationship requires effort on his part. He has to rig rod and reel, cast a hundred times, and endure the elements of sun or rain. It also means pain for the fish, as hook enters its mouth, digs deep, and sends trauma through its body. And tension too! The line strains to constrain the fish from swimming downstream with the river’s strong current.

Who’s in charge:

Consider what happens when Bill hooks into a fish. Who is in control, Bill or the fish? At first it may seem Bill is. With his rod and reel in good working order, and the fish tugging at the end of the line, all he has to do is pull steadily, and account for any run, and in three minutes, the salmon is flopping at his feet, beached.

But for every fish landed, more get away. Some fish dash down river, snapping line like thread, but trailing that hook and line from their gums. Others jump and twist and thrash and tear flesh, but if lucky, dislodge the hook. Wounded, yet free, they win.

Still other fish figure out a simpler, braver path. Rather than pull, dash, or thrash, they swim toward shore, and approach the fisherman. When fish do so, you’re bound to see a frantic person reeling like crazy shouting “No, no, no—not towards me!” But if the fish persists, the line goes slack, and the hook comes out with a flick of its head. In cases where fish swim toward their enemy, they often gain freedom from pain and leave dragging nothing behind them.

Lent is nearly here:

As we complete our Pre-Lenten journey, God asks us to consider His forgiveness and the way we forgive each other. God asks us to consider the way He forgives, and that we forgive in the same way. We need to choose the kind of fish we are going to be.

Our choices:

Like the fish and fisherman, we are in relationships with each other. At times those relationships can be marked by struggle, tension, and pain.

Like the fish, we make choices abut our reactions to hurt. Those reactions may be to dash and thrash against those hooks, the hurts that stab at us.

We may complain or criticize; choose to focus on and elaborate on just how wrong the other person is. We might take the route of defensiveness. We may shut down or withdraw, employ the silent treatment. We may go so far as to treat the person who hurt us with contempt and disgust.

When we respond these ways, we’re like hooked fish fighting frantically to solve our dilemma. We may succeed in breaking off our relationships, getting away from them, but it will always be with wounds, with something dragging behind us. We will never be truly free. We remain wounded and burdened.

Isn’t it hard:

As we dwell on the hurts, the barbs that stick into us, we may consider other options.

Maybe they will come to me and apologize? Then I will forgive. That may happen, but in the waiting we are stuck where we are, we can’t free ourselves and move forward.

We might think that to forgive means we have to trust again. Those two things are quite different. Forgiving means that we let go of the hurt, the hooks that cause us pain. Entering back into a trusting relationship requires more. That’s a fuller reconciliation and a rebuilding process. Sometimes relationships aren’t ready for that.

Finally, we just might enjoy our pain and the bitterness the barbs cause us. If that’s the choice, then no, we will not forgive. But we will remain hooked and hurt, we will suffer the results — anger, anxiety, fear, migraines, and worse. We will be “hooked” into our pain, and drag it with us for years to come — maybe for eternity.

Be smart:

God asks us to be the smart fish, to swim towards those who have hurt us and forgive. As we do, we free ourselves from the barbs that hurt us.

Pain doesn’t go away easily, and true reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships is a much longer process, but it has to start with our going toward those who hurt us. There we offer our forgiveness.

In forgiving we stop the dashing and thrashing that tears at our souls.

God’s way:

This is God’s way. When we hurt God through sin, we will always find Him swimming toward us, with complete forgiveness.

God doesn’t sometimes swim toward us — He always does, and His forgiveness is complete. There is no book of sins at the pearly gates. There is no record of our wrongs. God reassures us:

It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake, your offenses;
your sins I remember no more.

He forgives us completely. One day Jesus’ disciple, Peter, asked him “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

We are not to take Jesus’ instruction literally, forgiving 490 times. We are rather to have His attitude of generous forgiveness. We should be ever-willing to forgive others, just as He forgave the paralytic, just as He forgives us.

As we enter Lent, let us resolve to do the same with each other. To forgive generously, and to swim toward those who hurt us. Doing so, we will be truly free. Amen.

Reflection for Quinquagesima Sunday

19 February 2012 - By

Swim away!
Maybe it would be better if…

“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Fishing is a two-way relationship. It involves work, struggle, and tension. It also involves pain and trauma for the fish.

When a fisherman hooks a fish, which of them is really in charge? Most think the fisherman. He has the brains, the tools, and the power to overcome and land his catch.

Every fisherman knows that for every fish caught, many more get away. Some snap lines that trail behind them as they swim away. Others tear the hook out in the struggle, and swim away wounded.

Yet some fish figure out a simpler, braver path. Rather than pull, dash, or thrash, they swim toward shore, and approach the fisherman. When fish do so, you’re bound to see a frantic person reeling like crazy shouting “No, no, no—not towards me!” But if the fish persists, the line goes slack, and the hook comes out with a flick of its head.

In cases where fish swim toward their enemy, they often gain freedom from pain, and leave dragging nothing behind them.

Today, God asks us to consider His forgiveness and the way we forgive each other.

Like the fish and fisherman, we are in relationships with each other. At times those relationships can be marked by struggle, tension, and pain.

When we choose, as a result of hurt (those hooks that stab at us) to fight and flee, we end up either dragging the memories of those hurts behind us, or we end up deeply wounded.

God asks us to be the smart fish, to swim towards those who have hurt us. As we do, we free ourselves from the barbs that hurt us and we are free.

The pain doesn’t go away easily, and true reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships is a much longer process, but it has to start with our going toward those who hurt us. There we offer our forgiveness.

When we hurt God through sin, we will always find Him swimming toward us, with complete forgiveness. As we enter Lent, let us resolve to do the same with each other.

Requiem on the Anniversary of the Death of Ś+P Bishop Franciszek Hodur

16 February 2012 - By

First reading: Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm: Ps. 23
Epistle: 2 Timothy 1:6-11
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16

You are the light of the world.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.

Gather:

Today we gather, on this anniversary of the calling to heaven of our organizer, our spiritual mentor and father, Bishop Franciszek Hodur. Today we gather to remember and recall his work, but not only. Today we gather to refocus and recommit ourselves to the path he laid before us, a sure path that shows our Christian light and faith to all, and which leads all to heaven.

The great piece of art on the ceiling of St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Cathedral shows exactly that. Bishop Hodur is following Christ, our light. In turn the people and clergy follow behind him, as he reflects Christ’s light. Off in the distance, more and more people continue to follow Christ’s light as it is reflected by each person who follows Christ.

We are debates:

As is so often the case in any endeavor, we attempt to label our actions. We attempt to define ourselves in words. For those who do not know us, we use analogy and metaphor.

As the people of the Holy Polish National Catholic Church, we do the same. We walk through the litanies of who and what we are, and sometimes engage in extensive debates. Everyone has a favorite analogy or metaphor. It is natural, because those coming through our doors want a touch point. They want some basic understanding. You know the questions and the answers:

  • Do I have to be Polish to join? No.
  • You’re Catholic, right? Yes, but not the kind you’re thinking of.
  • Democratic Church? What does that mean? It would take too long to answer in one homily…

No one wants to come to church, especially for a first visit, and be inundated with long technical answers or even the quite inappropriate and untrue: We are just like the Roman Catholic Church, except…

Who we are:

Bishop Hodur would have none of that. As I noted in the bulletin, Bishop Hodur referred to the numerical growth of the church and noted that an increase in numbers was not enough. What is necessary is spiritual commitment. Growing the Church is not only about numbers. It is something more profound. It is our personal commitment to the spirit and faith of our Church. It is also an invitation to others to join in our Church through the power of our ideas.

Who we are is the light of the world. We are a community of believers, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith, that reflects Christ’s light and leads all to heaven. We are people who are committed to the spirit and faith of our Holy Church, because that spirit and faith best lead to heaven. We are a Church whose hands and arms are open to all because we invite all to join. Our invitation is the way we reflect Christ’s light and the sheer power of our ideas.

Dignity:

Looking at the work of our great organizer, we can reflect on the accomplishments achieved by the community of faith he built.

The first accomplishment is dignity. Bishop Hodur led an immigrant people, largely disenfranchised, used as fodder in mines and factories, underpaid, and seen as the dirty underclass of society, to dignity. He built up the people’s spirit; he called on them to exercise their patriotic duties, to become involved, and to grow — as a result of their faith — into physical and intellectual strength as solid citizens, business people, and community.

The people he led were the descendants and heirs to a strong and proud land, with a rich history of physical, political, intellectual, and democratic endeavors. Most importantly, as human beings, they needed to see the inherent dignity bestowed on them by God. Bishop Hodur saw all people as God’s children. He saw every nation as endowed with particular gifts by God. No one was without dignity. No one was to be treated as less than human or as mere capital for use by others.

We are all endowed with human dignity by God and that is the starting point for reflecting the light of Christ. No one is too small or insignificant to be the words, actions, and light of Jesus in the world.

Equality:

Another accomplishment is Bishop Hodur’s support for equality. He fully supported, encouraged, and stood in the midst of the Labor Movement. He rallied for equality in the workplace, and in the ownership of property. He saw a great wrong in those who amassed great fortunes and who horded wealth, building self-serving empires on the backs of their workers. Bishop Hodur rallied too against churches that saw their people as donation machines, who aggrandized their clergy, bishops, and popes while letting those they considered subjects suffer want and subjugation.

We are equal children of God. Within our Church no one ranks first, no one last. Our great democratic principles make all equal owners in the responsibility — not just for governing and managing — but for being Christ’s light to the world.

Education:

A third accomplishment is Bishop Hodur’s focus on education. Look at our Church and its organizations. You cannot trip over an organization or event without finding some sort of scholarship or college stipend associated with it. Bishop Hodur built poetry societies, a large publishing house, and literary societies. He coupled intellectual education with physical education, taking a holistic approach to learning. He saw reading and all education as the keys to success — both in society and in our key mission of spreading Christ’s word and light, being light to the world and teaching the gospel.

Light:

God’s light does not exist in a vacuum. Spreading God’s word and reflecting Christ’s light, is dependent on people. Our organizer, Bishop Hodur, knew that. Being the light of the world is not a definition, metaphor, analogy, or description. It is not a comparison, or a job for the clergy caste. It is the job of the Church. The Church is all who take up its spirit and faith, who invite others to join by the way they reflect Christ’s light and by the sheer power of ideas.

Let us once again take up the spirit and faith of the Holy Polish National Catholic Church by the way we acknowledge the dignity of every person, the way we practice equality in our democratic model of Church, by educating to teach the gospel, and most importantly by being Christ’s light to the world — the same light Bishop Hodur reflected and continues to reflect. Amen.

Church is for lovers

14 February 2012 - By

His banner over me is love. – Song of Songs 2:4

May our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, bless your marriages and relationships. May He be the source and example of love and fidelity in your lives. May He grant you the gifts of love that are patience, kindness, selflessness, forgiveness, truthfulness, trust, and perseverance. May He be the center of your love, for He is love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sexagesima Sunday

12 February 2012 - By

First reading: 1 Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
Psalm: Ps 32:1-2,5,11
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

He remained outside in deserted places

Denise:

Denise was a student in Victoria, Brazil, and doing private piano teaching in her spare time, when her relationship with her boyfriend of three years came to an end. She felt like her hopes, dreams, and her future had come to an end. She felt devastated and alone. She felt like she had no one to share her life! She felt so lonely! Nothing could fill her emptiness.

Denise began to think that maybe God could help. Then someone who knew her situation invited her to a church, and this person assured her that she would be better after going there.

The speaker at the church meeting was talking about Jesus, how He would like to take her hand, and lead her all the way ahead. The speaker said that Jesus is alive, and that He would like to live with her and help her to overcome all difficulties, especially her loneliness.

Denise cried and prayed, “Jesus, I want you in my life. I know you died to give me life. Take all my sad and bad feelings, take away my loneliness and give me purpose for my life. Give me all you have. Guide me until the end. I give my life to you.”

Denise realized Jesus was with her, as if at the table having a meal, or walking on the street, or in her room. She was not alone. She could talk to this special and perfect friend! And she had new friends who were Christians, who helped her, and invited her into their community and their community’s work.

Types of loneliness:

There are two types of loneliness, emotional and physical.

Emotional loneliness occurs when we feel separated from others we are attached to. Examples of this are when little children are separated from their parents and begin to cry and act out. This happens in adults too, when we feel separated from the person we love the most. One of the biggest days for feeling that separation lies ahead, Valentine’s Day, especially if the one we love is far off, disconnected from us, or has died.

Physical loneliness is the bodily separation from another person, place or an event. This is the loneliness we experience when we lack a wider social network, when we feel apart from our community, or if we do not have friends or allies that we can rely on, especially in times of distress.

We are getting lonelier:

We are getting lonelier. About 60 million Americans see themselves as being lonely, that is 20% of the total population who feel lonely.

Another study found that 12% of Americans have no one with whom to spend free time or to discuss important matters, and research suggests that the rate of loneliness has been increasing over time. The General Social Survey found that between 1985 and 2004, the number of people the average American discusses important matters with decreased from three to two. Additionally, the rate of Americans with no one to discuss important matters with tripled.

At the beginning of the 20th century families helped to alleviate the sense of loneliness. Families were typically larger and more stable, divorce was rarer, and relatively few people lived alone. In 1900 only 5% of households were single-person households; by 1995, 24 million Americans lived alone, and by 2010, it is estimated that that number has increased to around 31 million.

Loneliness as a symptom:

Loneliness is a symptom. The greatest challenge in human life is not some extraordinary scientific discovery, or some great feat of daring. Rather, it is the challenge of avoiding sinfulness. Loneliness is the worst of the symptoms that result from the sickness of sin. We tend to separate ourselves from those we love, from our social network, friends, and allies as a result of sin.

In Denise’s story, we see loneliness resulting from the sin of despair and hopelessness, and from an act of abandonment by the person she loved.

Sometimes it might be the smallest of sins, that time we neglected to pick up the phone, or visit that friend because we were feeling lazy. At other times it might be that big sin, the time we yelled at the person we love, used harsh words, told someone to get out. It is also the sin of not committing enough time to our spouses and our families.

Jesus and loneliness:

Jesus had just healed the leper who had begged Him for mercy. Jesus instructed the former leper to go show himself to the temple priests and to make the called for sacrifice. But now Jesus was in trouble.

According to Mosaic Law, Jesus could not go near anyone. He had touched a leper, and in the process had made Himself ritually unclean. According to the law, He had to stay away from people, had to be isolated, so that He would not contaminate anyone else. Of course, Jesus was completely pure and clean, but He abided by the strictures of Mosaic Law.

Jesus came to us, not to be separated from humanity, but to be part of humanity. That meant He was subject to the same feelings, the same temptations, the very same things we face. So today, we learn about Jesus’ experience of isolation and loneliness.

Jesus knew loneliness well, and the greatest moment of loneliness was as He felt totally abandoned, hanging on the cross.

The cure:

The whole point of Jesus’ isolation was not just to show that He is like us in every way but sin, but to let us know that He is here, to this day, as the remedy and cure for our isolation and loneliness.

That cure takes two forms. The first, and something to be especially cognizant of as we prepare to enter Lent, is that Jesus heals our sinfulness. In Him we find the cure for the sickness of sin and the roadmap we can follow to avoid sin. More so, Jesus gives us the grace we need to set aside sin and to live the life God asks us to live.

The second part of the cure is the very same one Denise found. She let Jesus into her life. She accepted Jesus and His grace. She offered her life to Jesus and in doing so entered the community of faith.

So many people have found that finding and accepting God was to lose loneliness. In doing so they found forgiveness. They found real purpose in receiving love from Jesus, and in giving it to other people in this unhappy world.

Never lonely again:

Jesus calls us to repent of sin and follow the Gospel, to fix relationships that are damaged and spoilt because of our own wrong actions and selfish behavior. He also wants us to know that the Father – the maker of the whole world – is a loving person, who desperately wants a relationship with us! It may be unbelievable, but it is true. God is not a power, a force, a feeling, or a distant angry ruler – He is a person, who wants to be a ‘friend who stays closer than a brother’. He is the ultimate Family, the real Lover, and the special Friend. What is more, He gives us a new power inside, to handle life, relationships and problems. He came to heal isolation, to end loneliness, and to be with us, even when we think we are so alone.

As difficult days lie ahead for this parish, as community appears to be breaking down, let us take comfort in knowing that if we follow the gospel, if we trust in Jesus, if we set aside despair, and rely on God’s grace, like Denise did, we will remain joined. Let us be assured that God remains with us, ever close to us.

God created us, each of us, to be social, to live in community, to be a real part of each others lives. We need people because God designed us that way. Recall what God says in Genesis: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Then let us resolve to remain in each others lives, in each others hearts, in each others prayers. We are first and foremost members of Jesus’ community and nothing can make us lonely or separate us from Him or each other. Amen.

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