I posted the following quote on Facebook earlier in the week, originating from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
I usually post these sorts of things as I come across them due to a connection made in my own life, or due to something that I feel may help others in their own journey. I was surprised by the response to this one, however. I think there was such a strong reaction to this particular snippet due to the universality of loneliness; at some point in time, no matter what the career, family situation, or even vocation, every human being experiences loneliness. How do we approach this reality? How do we handle loneliness and a lacking of relation, both with others and with God? I think the answer resides in the words of a friend who responded to the above quote. I’m hoping she doesn’t mind that I use her words:
God’s response to our misery is mercy. And the only thing that we can give in response to His mercy is our poverty. This is something that I can really relate to! Even if we have material goods, we can be profoundly suffering and poor in spirit and love in our lives.
In other words, no matter what our inadequacies, no matter what our failings, there can only be one response to this loneliness: a complete and total self-gift to the Father, detached from worldly concerns and items, no matter what your state in life. In our misery, we find His mercy, and the only choice we have, the only thing we can give back, is our very selves. We must empty ourselves, responding in our poverty, embracing His mercy and love.
I suppose this seems counter-intuitive; I mean, we’re supposed to answer loneliness and misery with poverty? I thought Mother Teresa here is trying to eliminate poverty? No, there is a fine distinction to be made. So is God calling us to be miserable and poor? In one sense, yes, but in another sense, no! How wonderful is this contradiction!
You see, while we all encounter misery, while we are called to dwell in poverty and humility of self, God does not want us to be miserable and sad! No, He calls us to be ourselves, to find joy in life, to find joy in the every day occurrences, to find joy in Him. He responds to our misery with mercy, we in turn give back our poverty, and we experience eternal joy and love in Him! How beautiful is this life?! This response of poverty entails the very cure to loneliness Mother Teresa mentions in the above words, and to which I thnk my friend alludes: love. In fact, it all leads back to love. In all our trials and tribulations, God responds to us in love, and so we respond back to Him, and to all those around us, in love, inadequate as that love may be. Only then can this especially Western ailment be cured.
Perhaps some of this is difficult to understand; I know I have difficulty with it, and I expect to for the rest of my life. We must trust, however, in His plan for our lives. We must trust that while there is loneliness and misery, there remains an even greater joy if we allow His love to penetrate our hearts. As Pope Saint John Paul II was fond of reiterating, we must not be afraid! Part of allowing this joy into our lives, letting go of this loneliness, is taking a step into the unknown. Perhaps this means stepping outside of our comfort zone, reaching out to someone, or taking who knows what step to a new phase in our lives. Oh, how I need to learn to take my own advice! There are, and always will be, questions, but that’s OK. Let us have embrace the joy that awaits us and take the next step, dwelling in the everlasting love that awaits us in the Trinity. Be bold. Be courageous. Take a chance and love. Cure loneliness and dwell in a life of joy.
Pax et bonum.