Our loneliness is often caused by a lack of true humility … which calls us to empower and praise others
Mother Teresa once said this: there is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness, and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.
Surely much of the violence and greed in the world is driven by an absence of love? Last week we learned about the need to contribute something in order to stay in the vineyard. However, just being in the vineyard and contributing something is not enough for the long term.
We can still be lonely even when in a crowd or at a party. The antidote (cure) to loneliness is twofold: a certain humility to fit in with family/ society expectations, and a certain generosity to be interested in the reality of others.
True humility means giving our regular contributions with love and not resentment. True humility grows from our appreciation for what others have done to and for us. The man without a uniform is present (has contributed his time), but is not fitting in with others.
Perhaps we can use the example of a boy at school (I presume girls are perfect), who is present at school but spends his time disrupting the class with jokes and tricks that distract others and prevent himself from learning. Eventually the teacher will eject the boy from the class and then there will be shock, tears and disgrace.
As much as some parents would like to (at times!), we cannot eject a child from the family. However, we can eject a child from the dining table and send him to bed without supper, or at least without ice-cream!! Then there really is grinding of teeth and weeping!
So, today we are given two challenges if we wish to find love and peace in our lives:
1) be generous with your time for others: it may be a wedding banquet invite or a house party, or remembrance anniversary of death; let us push ourselves to go, as a gift to the other;
2) when we arrive, put on the correct uniform: there are some people who come to a party and suck the happiness out of people: and so we avoid them; the uniform of love calls us to be genuinely interested in the welfare of others who are present: to make others laugh and make them feel important;
This is especially true as we grow older: we need to set the right example for younger people, and empower them with opportunities to share their successes/ joys, and their disappointments.
In our world today, there are so many rich, lonely, people who think happiness comes from the next best iPhone, car and overseas holiday: and they are rarely satisfied for long.
Whereas, God invites us to find true happiness as we celebrate together. We see that in the rhythm of each week: Sunday is a day set aside for family time/ meals and community/Mass.
Is that one of our challenges, too? Are we trying to make ourselves happy by making ourselves more rich; to have more material things; a bigger car, bigger security fence, etc.? And, yet, it’s often the people with the worldly riches who are unhappy and turn to drugs.
The emotional need for belonging is one of the five key emotional needs for every person. Without a sense of belonging, we are like a physically crippled person; we struggle to move freely and often need assistance: we struggle with our relationships because we live in fear of rejection, and we don’t have anywhere to go where we feel unconditionally loved.
The workplace loves us because we perform – but when we stop performing, we are no longer “wanted.” Many friends are friends until we disagree with them, then we’re not welcome
But, of course, we cannot stay together unless we behave in a common manner that is helpful and enjoyable. So, the Gospel introduces the idea of a wedding garment. It signifies much more than just a nice uniform or dress standard.
It is the uniform of love: as Mother Teresa noted, of kindness, of thoughtfulness, and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much. It is not that God throws us outside, but our selfishness causes us to be outside the happiness of people who care and share with each other.
It’s a great sadness that, as more and more people leave the practice of being Church over the last 50 years, the number of people with depression, youth suicide, who are victims of violence, etc. has increased dramatically.
Let us ask God, today, for more humility to fit into the ‘wedding garment’ and to let go of our self-righteous judgement of others. My friends, it’s time to come home. Because if we remain outside, it’s going to get very cold and lonely for us.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI