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The Key to a Lonely Heart

by Catherine Doherty

While it is true that the Gospel requires us to share our physical goods, and many of us do, or try to, we sometimes forget that man does not live by bread alone (Mt 4:4). It is this very dimension of love that we are reluctant to give our neighbor.

Loneliness holds people today in a grip that seems unbreakable. Yet it can be broken. It can be broken by love, a love offered silently and gently from one human heart to another.

It may be a love expressed in words, words that come from a heart united with God in the quiet prayer of contemplation. For it is not enough for Christians to simply love. We are called to love with the very heart of Christ himself.

In order to so, we need to open our hearts to others. We are asked to take upon ourselves the pain of each person as Christ did. We are called to identify ourselves constantly with the lonely ones and to share their loneliness.

In order to do this, it is essential that we die to self. Then Christ will live in us and love in us. In the face of such love, loneliness will depart, and our world will be able to gather itself together. Then the islands will merge into a mainland, the one body of Christ.

Reverence, understanding, and hospitality of the heart¾these are the immediate, intense needs of people today. Are we Christians going to wake up and act as Christians, incarnating the law of love into our daily lives in real depth?

Or are we going to compromise and allow people to continue to plunge into their dark nights, looking for someone who will say to them, “My brother, I am here. Come. I have water and a towel. Sit down. Let me wash your tired feet that have pilgrimaged for so long. I recognize you as my brother. I revere you. I love you.”

These meetings are the true crossroads of time and history.

Loneliness has a door, and each one of us has the key to it. The key is acceptance of the other without condition. Acceptance makes someone realize that he or she is loved. And because we have given them our love, we can now give them the fruit of love¾tenderness, compassion, gentleness, and understanding.

Yes, I have the key to the loneliness of the other, and the other has the key to my loneliness. The only thing we have to do is to insert that key into the keyhole of our hearts, open the door, and enter.

But we are afraid, because this means a deep, loving involvement with the other.

We prefer to be involved in some project or place of our own choosing, where we don’t have to use a key to another’s heart.

From Living the Gospel Without Compromise,(2002), pp. 59-60, available from MH Publications.