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It is not Good for the Man to be Alone.
In the reflection on today’s Mass readings, I decided to focus on the first reading:
The LORD God said:
"It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him."
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman
the rib that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called 'woman,'
for out of 'her man' this one has been taken."
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.
The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.
It seems that our modern culture has become so detached from human nature, and nature itself, that the simplicity and profundity of this passage is, perhaps, lost. We live in a world where the individual is too often the center of his or her own universe. The family is devalued. No fault divorce has shredded the fabric of society. Children are only valued if they are wanted. More and more, people are “spiritual but not religious, and if they are Christian, many reject “organized religion.” Simple biology is rejected in favor of innumerable psychological concepts of “gender” and “identity.” The institutions of society and government that we relied on only a generation or two ago are proving themselves untrustworthy and even harmful, as the general values of Christian culture are abandoned.
We often spend more time online, living in a virtual world, than conversing with our real-life friends and family or engaging with the physical world. Now, there is much talk of transhumanism… a concept in which artificial intelligence would surpass human intelligence, man would essentially build his own god and live forever in the cyber universe. The body and soul, the family, community and even the physical world are being devalued in favor of a dystopian future devoid of even the concept of love.
This is not new. This was the very sin of Satan, who rejected the authority of God and wished to create his own loveless, individualistic existence and set himself up as God. This has been repeated among men throughout history, from the Tower of Babel to Communism. Now, it is fueled not so much by ideology but by hedonism and ignorance. As Mark Twain may have said, “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” Man is a social animal. Simply put, we need community. More than that though, we need family. The nature of the Trinity is described as a family. Our Lord tells us of God, the Father. But, in modern America, only about half of kids even know their father or have been raised with a father in the home. We are told in the Ten Commandments, “Honor thy father and thy mother…” Yet, how many kids grow up with the knowledge that their mother considered aborting them, or are raised more by day care and public schools than their own mother? We are brothers and sisters in Christ, but many have no concept of family. We are called to the Body of Christ, but many have no concept of love and unity.
As from the beginning, God provides us the answer. We can find community in the Catholic Church. We may even be able to find a spouse. But too often, a Catholic Church is not a friendly place for single people. We go silently into Mass and watch all the families sitting together on the pews. No one speaks to us except during the mandatory greeting. There is no opportunity to speak to anyone. After the Eucharist, people begin leaving as quickly as they can. Most, often all, ministries and Church activities are focused on children, young families, religious education and the elderly. If your parish is in a college town, they may have something for college students. But, that is about it… especially if you work for a living. Most things one could be involved in happen on weekdays and during working hours. Most volunteer opportunities seem to be oriented around the retired. At least, that has been my experience.
We often hear homilies about how we must do more to help those who are lonely and either socially, economically or physically isolated. Certainly we should. But, what of those who are sitting on the pews with us? While I would not wish for a Catholic Church to become a social club, and I appreciate the reverence during Mass, I think the family of God may be much better served if our Church encouraged more fellowship. Yes, we should go out and do charitable acts. But, there is nothing wrong with an old-fashioned church picknick either!
Regardless, the old adage that a kind word and a smile cost nothing still rings true. Whether at church or in a grocery store (etc.), turn off your phone. Seriously, PLEASE turn off your phone during Mass! But, wherever you are, keep an eye out for opportunities to speak to strangers. The basic acts of human kindness such as saying hello and talking to a lonely person are also charity…. and frankly, they are the holding this world together.