The atmosphere spoke of happiness and merriment, and yet many sought it in vain. Some searched for Christmas cheer in stores or at parties, in vacations or novelties, or on television, or on the internet, or at the movies. They may have distracted themselves for awhile from feelings of emptiness, but in the end they still found themselves alone.
This was certainly the experience of many homeless people, drug addicts, alcoholics, and people who have been abused and abandoned. Here is a terrible loneliness.
Then there were the people far from their homes, especially those who have dedicated themselves to service: to the defense of our homeland, the safety of our communities, the staffing of our hospitals. How much we depend on these people to remain strong even in solitude, even as they yearn for those they love. Let us not forget them. Let us love them and be grateful for their continuing sacrifices.
Christmas was also lonely for people whose hearts were heavy over the loss of parents, children, relatives, or friends. And then there were people whose hearts were cut into pieces by estrangement from one another.
How many of us have known this loneliness only too well?
Have we found healing and peace? Have we forgiven one another and been reconciled?
Christmas alone, for the sick, for those who have become strangers to their own minds, and for those who are neglected in their sufferings. There are more people like this than we realize, people near to us, people who waited helplessly for our compassion.
Then there are in our midst lonely people who have lost their faith, or who have never found it. People without hope. People who don't allow themselves to be loved.
People who need our presence, our witness. People who need us to take the risk of giving of ourselves, the risk of loving.
People who need our prayers, not simply in a formalistic way, but prayers from our heart, prayers that hold them and accompany them, prayers that seek the One who has made Himself the companion of every person, the One who has hidden Himself within every loneliness and made it His loneliness.
In this new year, let us pray for all those who have not known the light of these days. Let us also pray for one another and take the risk to give ourselves in love, to walk with one another. For we all depend on one another, we all need one another.
We have been given the time and space of this new year, of this life, so that we might show mercy to one another, so that we might be merciful and receive mercy.