If there is one feeling that plagues us, it is loneliness. How can we feel lonely if we believe in God whom we know is always with us? Jesus promises us today in the Gospel that He will not leave us orphans. But still we often feel lonely. Our loneliness and the need to connect with another has brought millions of dollars into telecommunication companies such as SMART, GLOBE, SUN, etc. The top products today are cellphones and internet cards. The younger generation (and many more such as myself) has many social platforms in the internet: Friendster, Multiply, and Facebook. In these social networking, we are able to know what is happening with a friend or colleague just by viewing their pictures and reading their blogs. We are able to ‘collect and connect’ with friends and acquaintances — if only it would appease our wanting.
Our need to connect is imbedded within our very own system. There is that hunger and emptiness in our hearts that eats into our very core. We cannot help it but feel alone, abandoned and estranged from the rest of the world. Those abroad may feel financially secure or admire the efficiency or orderliness of a foreign country, but they remain — and look — different from the locals abroad. They would still pine for Manila, with all of its traffic and disorder. Even in our local communities, like our circle of friends, we may still feel alone in their midst. Loneliness is felt as an existential need, at the very root of our existence. Our relationships and our need to have people around us physically is what we are.
However, we have been frustrated by a lot of people, including our friends whose promise to be with us forever cannot keep their promises. They cannot be with us right away when we needed them. Meeting them, whether for coffee or for a movie, needs to be scheduled. We have to postpone our hunger for them. In fact, no one can or have the capability to fulfill our infinite need for physical companionship.
We just have to believe in their promises that even when apart, they think about us often. We just have to believe that the least that they can do is to try to move an appointment or do an unfinished work fast and quick so they can rush immediately to us. We just have to believe in their word that we have their heart. We have to accept that we are lonely and that the remedy for our infinite desire to have someone is not another human person, but God who can fill it.
Thus, we can move out of our loneliness (the infinite hunger for another human being) towards solitude. Solitude is being at home with ourselves. It is being at peace spending the time with God. It means that having coffee and reading a book by ourselves is fine with us. It means going to the movies and having dinner with ourselves, our “me-time” is equally enjoyable and precious as when we are with our families and friends. Solitude means finding time to pray, reflect and examine our lives; and finding the time meaningful and necessary.
So this is what Jesus meant. He may have left the world and his disciples physically. It saddened Him. It made the disciples long for him. But the departure of Jesus did not paralyze them to continue His mission. Because they are assured that Jesus remains with them just as He had promised. His Holy Spirit remains in us. This is the reason why Philip, in a foreign country such as Samaria in the first reading, was able to convert the people there. They have paid attention to his preaching about Jesus, and they have seen the presence of Christ in the words that he did.