Have you ever felt extremely lonely even in a room or at a school crowded with many people?
In previous meetings, we explored the theme of longing for God as a fundamental aspect of our humanity. Amid the restlessness that drives our desire for connection with others and God, we all find ourselves in moments of intense loneliness. It is an experience all too common and it reaches people in different ways at different times, for different reasons. Loneliness can often isolate us from community or keep us from being our fullest selves. It can also be very painful to be lonely. Sometimes we try to fill that pain with other things like alcohol, money, shopping, sex, or food in order to numb that pain. The following Scripture serves as an entry point in which to connect our own loneliness with that of Christ’s.
It is important to facilitate a safe space where members feel comfortable enough to engage this topic. Two important points to keep in mind and to perhaps highlight: 1) Loneliness can often be the most present among many people or in the midst of several relationships. Loneliness does not always imply a lack of relationships or social interactions. This feeling is complex and is not always rational. 2) Loneliness vs. Solitude: Just as loneliness does not always mean to be physically alone, solitude does not necessarily indicate that one feels lonely. In solitude, the intentional alone time that a person creates, one can draw energy and feel expansively connected to others just as a person in a crowd can feel deeply alone.
Note, if you plan to have the “The Fire Within” meeting next week, it may be a good idea to pass out the article “The Longing for Intimacy” by Jackie Joens during this meeting in order for members to read it in preparation.
- Printed out copies of the reflection questions
- Hard surfaces to write on
- Meditative music
Ask for the grace to articulate our own experience of loneliness and join it to Christ’s.
When have you felt connected with others this week?
Read the Psychology Today article as a way to generate some reflection on the ideas of solitude vs. loneliness.
Invite members to briefly share on what strikes them upon reading this article.
Once everyone has had an opportunity to share, invite them into a reflection on the following scripture.
As I read the following passage, imagine how Jesus is feeling in his experience and how he is feeling in relations with others. We pray to feel with Christ’s very heart as we open ourselves to the spirit of the scripture.
“Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.’ But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”
But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly. Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.
Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.”
He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”
When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14: 26-42
After reading the scripture, allow for about 15 minutes of silence with meditative music playing and invite members to reflect in writing upon the following questions.
- What do you imagine Christ was experiencing in his time in the garden?
- Has there been a time in recent years or months that you have felt particularly lonely or empty, as if there was something lacking? What role did relationships play in this time? How did this affect your relationship with God, with yourself, or others? How were you challenged or consoled spiritually?
- How did you respond in action to these moments?
- What desire is emerging for you in light of these experiences? Is it possible to get in touch with the desire even beneath this one? Ask God for guidance.
- What arose for you in your writing?
- What is remaining with you?
- How have you noticed a difference between solitude and loneliness in your life?
- How does loneliness affect your relationship with God?
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or commonalities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
- What is remaining with you?
Pay attention to moments in the week when a sense of loneliness emerges. Notice what your natural instinct is in how to respond.
Try to reinforce the support of the present community in light of people’s loneliness. Offer gratitude for the opportunity to share honestly and openly about our experiences.
“As we begin to be aware of the various movements in ourselves …it would be helpful to [know] the sources of such movement so that we might be better able to understand how to respond to God.” (Spiritual Exercises )
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”