Whenever I pray the Holy Rosary, and come upon the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Agony in the Garden, I stop to think how lonely, how abandoned, Jesus must have felt in that moment.
Think about it. Jesus knew that his cruel torture and gruesome death was fast approaching. He was soon to be betrayed by one of his most trusted followers, Judas. And the other friends he had taken with him into the garden for moral support, Peter, James and John, couldn’t even stay awake. Jesus had asked them simply, “Please, keep watch with me.” They failed him.
Part of Jesus’ agony was, no doubt, the sense of utter abandonment at the most critical time of his life, the time when he most needed the comfort of human companionship. “My soul is sorrowful, even to death,” Jesus said. And is it any wonder, then, that Jesus prayed to his Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me?” And from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
The loneliness that Jesus knew is an experience common to us all. Recently I saw a national survey that said that Rhode Island is the loneliest state in the county. That’s surprising given the fact that we’re the smallest state and we live shoulder-to-shoulder to one another. But it points to the fact that proximity doesn’t guarantee friendship. There are many people in the world who are lonely.
Think of the husband or wife trapped in a loveless, joyless marriage. Or the teenager who feels different, alone, excluded from the “more popular” kids. Or the elderly person, alone at home or in a nursing home, staring at the television all day, seldom receiving visitors to brighten and break-up the day. Or the many folks who are depressed during the holidays when the rest of the world seems to be celebrating. And increasingly we hear of the spiritual isolation of parish priests, often now living and serving alone, even though their lives appear busy, and are busy, with pastoral activities.
Loneliness is something we all experience at one time or another. But it’s never pleasant. And loneliness is different than solitude. Loneliness is forced upon us. Solitude is chosen. Loneliness makes us feel empty and useless. Solitude helps us to realize the presence of God and appreciate the blessings of life, peacefully and prayerfully. So, we should fight bouts of loneliness, but embrace moments of solitude.
Something to think about: If you’re lonely, remember the loneliness of Jesus. Here too, you are blessed to share in the imitation of Christ.