Loneliness, Hunger of the Heart
Today’s Gospel (Matt 14:13-21) throws light on loneliness which is another name for the hunger of the heart. A popular film years ago was called “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. One form of loneliness is the grief experienced after the death of a loved one. On hearing of the death of his cousin John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to a lonely place to attend to his grief. A person who is grieving needs time and space. Different people deal with grief in different ways. In the weeks after the funeral, people grieving will be very tired physically, emotionally and spiritually. One may not have the emotional energy to pray. It is important to let them know that you are praying for them. Pray for the discernment to know when to accompany the person grieving and when to let the person have time alone.
A lonely place
The quietness that Jesus sought did not last for long. Word went around about where he was and people sought him. Out of pity for the people he set aside his own need and attended to their needs. Hours slipped by and the disciples were concerned because the people had not brought food. It is interesting that the apostles did not say to Jesus that this is hungry place but that this is a lonely place. They had touched on the inner hunger of the heart, loneliness.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta was shocked when her Sisters went to work in a poor area of New York. In Calcutta, the Sisters had ministered to the dying and fed hundreds of hungry people every day. But in New Yet she was confronted by the hunger of loneliness. She described it. “The worst disease is not leprosy; it is being unwanted, being left out, being forgotten. The greatest scourge is to forget the next person, to be so suffocated with the things we have that we have no time for the lonely Jesus – even a person in our own family who needs us.”
In today’s Second Reading Saint Paul writes: “Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked”.
This is a lonely place, a world filled with lonely people. Jesus said, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” He counts on us to reach out. The apostles had very little to give, but they gave all they had. And then, God did the multiplying. We might not have much to give. Give it anyway and let God do the multiplying.
Inspired by the actions and words of Jesus we pray.
May the Church continue its long history of inspiring us to care for people who are poor, destitute or lonely. Lord, hear us.
May the rich nations and wealthy individuals open their eyes and hearts to help the millions who are starving today. Lord, hear us.
Open our eyes to the loneliness of people who may be very near us. And show us some way that we can help them. Lord, hear us.
May the God of all consolation comfort and support all who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Lord, hear us.
O God, we thank you for all that you have given us. Inspire us to be generous to people in any kind of need. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(Extract from Silvester O’Flynn, Gospel Reflections and Prayers, Columba Books.