Dear Jesus,

I am writing in the prayer mode today.  I feel burdened by things that I have heard and read and even experienced lately that both support and deny a basic tenet of your Good News.

Many people cry out in pain, unaware as they are of the source of their misery.  Something in our nature demands the experience of bonding with others in order for us to survive.  Those words in Genesis leap out with fresh power to shock.  “It is not good for the one (Adam) to be alone.”  People living in isolation struggle to find meaning and reason to go on living.  As much as this nation might laude the spirit of rugged individualism – an attitude and value that gets in the way of our ability to form community and for the rich to have a sense of responsibility for the needs of the poor – the fact remains that no one can survive long in isolation and remain sane and sound.

Several years ago, I wrote to you through tears regarding the plight of a large number of Romanian orphans that had spent the first months and years of their existence in antiseptic isolation, deprived of human touch.  Frequency of the failure-to-thrive phenomenon was reported.  Babies didn’t grow, mature and survive – even when they were fed rich bottled formula that they sucked from rubber nipples while lying in cribs wrapped in swaddling clothes.  When they were adopted into families by well-intentioned and loving parents, heartache resulted when those youngsters could not bond, as children ought, with their parents and siblings.  They abhorred being touched.  Unless the newborn feels loved through human touch in the first months of its life, that bonding instinct, basic to the human condition, dies.

Other problems follow.  Parents not only fondle little ones, mothers cradling them in their arms as they suckle at the breasts, but also they make small talk as the infants become familiar with the sounds of words that will become the foundational building blocks of communication.  Deprived of the experience of imitating those sounds during the first years, they may never be able to speak their native language accurately without an unnatural “accent.”  Frequently the little ones would close in on themselves.  They would sit and rock back and forth oblivious of the world around them.  Being unable to bond with others would also stifle any sense of empathy and/or compassion for others.  Many of the adoptive parents of those Romanian orphans could not cope with their sons or daughters as they grew and manifested bizarre patterns of behavior.  Grieving, they felt compelled to return the children to the orphanages from which they had been adopted.

That is the Romanian story.  Did we, in this land of plenty, learn the lessons contained there?  As I said, this letter is written in prayer mode.  I am pleading with you for help.  Most people in this land of plenty are not deprived of human touch in the beginning the way those orphans were.  But the experience of loneliness, isolation, and broken bonds at later stages of life take their toll.

Many people live very busy lives.  You know how long and how hard people work pressing with every fiber of their being for promised rewards of position, power, and wealth.  The realization of the “American Dream” dazzles like a mechanical rabbit, bounding just out of reach before the hounds in pursuit.  Then there is the plight of the unemployed whose very sense of self-worth is undermined because they are unable to find work that will enable them to earn even a basic living and provide the basics for their children.  Many relationships become strained and marriages fail.  How many adults and children settle on suicide as the only way to end their pain?

Quality time shared between spouses, among parents and children, between friends and intimates is an increasingly rare commodity.  Nationally, nearly 60 percent of marriages end in divorce.  People even speak of first marriages as “starter marriages,” the way couples of generations past used to speak of their first house as a “starter home.”  Neither is meant to be a permanent involvement, but a steppingstone to something better down the road.

A study in 1995 showed that adolescents who regularly spent time engaged with their families were less likely to become abusers – even users – of alcohol and “recreational” drugs.  But children whose parents were too busy to just be with them were more likely to become problem drinkers and drug abusers as teenagers.  Who can blame the parents who are tired from over working for extended hours or emotionally exhausted from their fruitless quest for employment?  Is it their fault they have no energy, much less the time, to participate in family life?  Sad to say, some who are driven by the quest for material gain will not take time for relationships that aren’t profitable.

I told you at the start of this letter that it would be more of a prayer than are my usual letters to you.  I’m pleading for the multitudes ensnared in these situations, situations that seem to be getting worse and to have even more dire consequences.  I sometimes feel isolated in my own life and deprived of the intimacy that sustains and gives zest to living.  I see signs pointing to that isolation in the lives of many about me.  In isolation, God seems remote.  I am aware of being out of touch with you.

Do you remember the last letter I wrote about praying for harvest reapers?  There is application in regards to the situations I’ve held up to you in this letter.  It’s true, isn’t it, that basic to your call to discipleship is the invitation to enter into community.  The great example of that was when you fed the multitudes with the few loaves and the couple of fish.  You asked the few to make the little they had available to the many.  They did and community formed as all ate their fill and were satisfied.

The church must foster that same sense of community.  No one should feel isolated or excluded.  The sense that “all are welcome here” ought to radiate throughout each assembly.  If that is not promoted, how will those seeking to gather with others around you and your table, sense their transformation into your body?  It is one thing to focus the assembly on the transcendence of God.  There is validity in that.  But as important is the focus on the immanence of God.  That is a principal significance of your Incarnation.  You united the human and the divine so that they would never be separated again.  When your people gather to celebrate Eucharist, the presider ought to invite all present to recognize their union with God through you and through you, their union with each other.  Then the invitation to “take and eat” and “take and drink” will transform those who do and translate into the invitation to enter into love and bring that love to all who flounder in isolation waiting for someone to awaken hope within them.

In you, no one is without worth or alone.



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