Homilies,  Year C

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 6 November 2022

One of my small claims to fame is that I was in correspondence with the late Princess of Wales.  I should hasten to add that the full extent of the correspondence between us was a mass produced card of gratitude from Kensington Palace in response to my rather lengthy epistle to Diana in which I had expressed gratitude for a comment she made during her famous – or infamous – 1995 BBC television interview with Martin Bashir.[1]   In that much publicized exchange I had been remarkably struck by the explanation of her struggle with royal politics which had rendered her particularly vulnerable.  Diana put forward, “there’s no better way to dismantle a personality than to isolate it.”  I thought this an extraordinarily accurate statement.  I heard it with striking clarity and I wrote to her to share how accurately she had given expression to one of the deepest truths we know about ourselves, one so clearly obvious but one we often overlook.

Nothing so fragments the personality as isolation.  In many ways I am coming more and more to the conclusion that we live in an age of isolation, especially in our modern Western and brilliantly technological societies. There is a great paradox in this since with the communication revolution never before have we been so connected to one another.

 If we are as connected to one another as never before, how can we be suffering from such isolation? As Tanveer Ahmed once wrote

Modern technology is vastly increasing our connectivity, such that we are in touch with more people than ever.  A Canadian social scientist, Barry Wellman, calculates that the average person has 250 ties to friends and relatives.

But the massive previously unmet need for psychological services suggest [sic] these connections are not of the quality that are providing fulfillment for many people.  In reality, we seem to be more alone than ever.[2]

This is not to negate the undeniable and brilliant benefits of the IT revolution with the myriad possibilities that it opens for us.  Yet, it underscores that connection does not, of itself, imply communication.  Somehow, we have confused connection with communication. The two are not the same thing.  We hear now of the new anxiety disorders particularly emerging in young people. “Twitter rage, social network exclusion anxiety, and nomophobia (a fear of not having a functional mobile phone) are not uncommon in young people,” observes the adolescent psychologist, Michael Carr Gregg.[3]  Join to these the disorders recently identified as textaphrenia (hearing texts of feeling mobile phones vibrate when it hasn’t, constantly checking mobile phones to see if a message has arrived), textiety (the anxiety teenagers feel with they haven’t received  a text or when they are unable to send texts such that they feel like they have no friends and over-analyze why people don’t reply) and post-traumatic text disorder (physical and mental injuries sustained while texting and feelings of depression when no one contacts us).[4] 

The truth is – our truth is – is that we are made for communion.  We are most human when we live in the experience of communion with one another; we experience ourselves dehumanized when we are isolated from one another.  Communion is life; isolation is death.

By the perspective of our faith, we realize that communion is our origin and our destiny.  I believe this is the truth which lies at the heart of the gospel we hear today.  In part, the text is about resurrection.  But it also speaks of what we are resurrected to.  We are resurrected into the experience of communion with one another in which we will be fully human, and indeed know what it is to be divine for God in God’s own self is Communion.  This is what we understand by the Mystery of God as Trinity, a communion of persons made one in and through their relationship with one another.

This Communion, which is our destiny, we glimpse now. We glimpse it now in the sacrament of marriage ‑ a partnership through which the Communion of God’s very life becomes manifest in our midst.  That which we glimpse now, however, comes to perfection in our resurrection when not only the communion we enjoy now will be freed to be fully itself, but when it also discovers itself indeed in a communion with all others and with the entire creation.

In that destiny of life, our fear of isolation will dissolve, and those factors which work currently to our fragmentation will be overcome.  In the experience of communion we will love with total freedom. We will be fully alive.

[1] See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/royals/interviews/bbc.html, accessed 16 July 2010.

[2] Tanveer Ahmed, “Hundreds of friends can’t cure loneliness,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 2010, page 9.

[3] See “Column8” The Sydney Morning Herald 19-20 June 2008, page 22.

[4] Stephen Fenech, “A mobile monster: Teenage text addicts suffer depression and anxiety,” The Daily Telegraph Wednesday 30 June 2008, page 7.

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