October 3, 2021 – Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Respect Life Sunday)
Readings: Genesis 2:18-24 / Hebrews 2:9-11 / Mark 10:2-12
The following is the homily I will be delivering today at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:
I very rarely do this when preaching, but today I am going to focus on one line of scripture. It comes from the very first line we heard from Genesis: The LORD God said: It is not good for man to be alone.
It is not good for man to be alone. Man is intended to live in community.
Alone has a variety of meanings.
It can mean that someone is isolated due to circumstances – living in a nursing home, hospitalized or homebound due to illness, imprisoned. We know how challenging isolation can be since during the pandemic, nearly all of us experienced it to some degree.
It is also possible to be alone in a crowded room. There are some who feel like they don’t quite “fit in.” They carry the heavy burden of feeling unworthy and unloved. For any number of reasons, they have lost hope. Depression, anxiety, or mental illness drain them and lead them to feel no one understands them or cares about them.
Regardless of which meaning we assign to the word alone – isolated or alone in a crowded room – It is not good for man to be alone.
The very reason our parish has a relationship with the Tamarindos in El Salvador is because we believe in the power of community. Yes, we have provided them financial resources over the years, but ultimately, we travel to El Salvador to connect with people, to build international and cross-cultural community. It is not good for man to be alone.
When I travelled to Haiti in 2011 – after a major earthquake in the country – I went with the idea I would be helping those less fortunate. While I believe we were of assistance to the Haitian people, the real value of the trip was connecting with other human beings. At a time when the Haitians were at their lowest, we were able to show them they were loved.
I remember as we walked on dirt paths through the mountain region of the country, children would come alongside us. If I wasn’t carrying anything and my hands were free, children would hold my hands and walk with me. When I looked down at them, they would just beam – bright eyes and huge smiles. If I squeezed their hand, they would giggle. They weren’t looking for a handout; they were craving human contact. They were showing gratitude that we cared about them. It is not good for man to be alone.
I’ve told many stories of Shirley over the years. She was my former elderly neighbor that I cared for and watched over. She also has the distinction of being the one person in the world that likes me more than Carol. She actually disregarded Carol, wanting nothing to do with her.
One Saturday morning, I found Shirley collapsed and unconscious on her living room floor. She was rushed to the hospital.
That evening, Carol and I went to the hospital to check on her. Shirley was very thin and pale, unalert. She was hooked up to multiple monitors and machines. She appeared to be near death.
I immediately put on my superhero cape and became Super Neighbor. I spoke with one nurse, sharing all of the medications Shirley was on. I spoke to another nurse about what Shirley might need from home – how can I help? I spoke to the doctor about her prognosis and filled him in on all of her medical conditions and past issues. I went to the front desk and talked to them about Shirley’s Medicaid and Medicare.
I headed back to Shirley’s room thinking to myself, “I may be the most helpful and efficient person ever. I am a really good person.”
Then I stepped into Shirley’s room. There was my wife at Shirley’s bedside. She was holding Shirley’s hand with one hand. With the other, she was stroking Shirley’s hair. She was leaning over the bed rail and with her mouth near Shirley’s ear, she was saying over and over, “Do you know how beautiful you are? Do you how much we love you? Rick and I love you so much.”
It was a beautiful example of what it means to be fully present to someone. While I was flying around doing “things” on behalf of Shirley, Carol was being with Shirley. And she didn’t even like Carol!
Had Carol had not gone with me that evening, despite my presence, Shirley would have remained alone. It is not good for man to be alone.
Our desire for community is an important topic to consider on this Respect Life Sunday. Foundational to respecting life is recognizing that God intends for us to live in active community. We are called to honor and value all human life, to watch out for and care for one another – to love as God loves.
What does that look like in our daily life?
We should be deliberate in checking in with people that are isolated – face to face if possible. I reached out to such a person last week via text message. She thanked me and ended her text with, “I know you’re very busy. I miss you.”
It was gracious of her to say that. However, I was mad at myself. I am very busy, but not so busy I couldn’t take 20 minutes to run by her house on the way home some evening. I need to do better. It is not good for man to be alone.
We should be aware of the people around us. Do they appear to be “alone in a crowded room”? It is important to ask them, “Are you doing OK?” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” We can include them in the conversation we’re having with others or invite them to join us at our table. Inherent in human nature is a desire to feel loved and valued. By reaching out to others and engaging with them, we can send a powerful message of hope to someone that may feel alone and unworthy. It is not good for man to be alone.
People who are alone, or feel alone, are the modern-day version of the “widows and orphans” Jesus referred to so often. He placed responsibility for caring for them on his followers. He places that same responsibility on us today, reminding us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers, we do for him.
On this Respect Life Sunday, scripture reminds us that we are called to live in community. We are called to active participation in that community, which includes watching out for others. To be part of a community, to feel we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, is life-giving. I challenge you to reflect on the people you know that are isolated or feel alone and make an effort to embrace them and reveal the face of Christ to them.
It is not good for man to be alone.