I was moved by this image from a 2015 news story of a couple of Christians walking with crosses as a public witness that all people are loved by God.
The thing that moved me most was that they are each carrying their own crosses, but they are not alone. They are together.
Christian faith is a communal life. It is true that each of us makes our own personal response to Jesus’ personal invitation to us, but once we have given our yes we become a part of something much greater; a body that rejoices in the growth of our sisters and brothers and which together suffers from the sin of every member.
We are not alone.
In today’s gospel Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary & Lazarus gave a dinner for him. It is clear that here is a place where Jesus is relaxed and where expressions of human friendship and intimacy are present: “Mary took a litre of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil”. Jesus experienced human friendship.
A recently published book entitled “Loneliness, Insights for healing in a fragmented world” begins with this paragraph:
“Loneliness is an inescapable and painful fact of human experience. St. Teresa of Calcutta believed that loneliness. often accompanied by despair and hopelessness, is the virulent affliction in the West… In England loneliness is considered so serious that it has created an entire national Campaign to End Loneliness is not only afflicting adults. It is on the rise among teenagers. As noted in The Economist, “Whether it is a consequence of phones, intrusive parenting, and obsessive focus on future job prospects or something else entirely, teenagers seem lonelier than in the past.” Loneliness p.xi . Introduction Gerald A. Arbuckle.
It is my experience that when I set out to find friends I fail finding the attempt frustrating and exhausting. However when I seek to live fully in relationship with Jesus Christ, friends arrive, and I have no doubt are given to me by God. I think this is why I find the image above so inspiring – these travelling companions are carrying their crosses together. Those who carry their cross immediately experience friendship with others who walk this path via Calvary to resurrection.
There is something significant too in realising that while we have a call and responsibility to use our gifts and abilities fully in every aspect of our life, the achievements and successes that come from our hard work will never satisfy our loneliness. Loneliness is overcome in the moments when we transcend our individualism and remember that we are bonded together by our common need for God.
I’m often encouraged by Genesis 2:18 when God says of the newly created man: “It is not good that man be alone…” Another favourite scripture encouragement is from Sirach: “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: the that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure their excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find the friend”. Sirach 6:14-16
- Allow Jesus to reveal to you any loneliness you may be experiencing. Know that this feeling is a sign that you are a healthy human, aware that nothing on earth can satisfy you completely.
- If you feel a need for renewed and deeper friendship, ask Jesus for this knowing that he will provide.
- Remember that we humans are created to carry our crosses together, sharing the company, the burden and the desire for abundant resurrection life.