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Loneliness is on the rise in the United States. A recent study by the insurance company, Cigna, found that 3 in 5 Americans report being lonely–feeling left out, misunderstood, lacking companionship. Loneliness is linked to anxiety, depression, heart disease, and shortened life span. Loneliness can affect people of all ages.

My son’s mother in law gave me a present for Christmas that I initially dismissed–a device produced by Meta which allows for video calls with various embellishments. I don’t spend time on social media. I set it aside. Yaya, however, recognized a power tool when she saw one.

Utilizing What’s App, my son was able to download my contact information onto the device he received for Christmas and his contact information onto my device. Voila! My grandchildren, ages 8 and 4, were suddenly able to call me without the assistance of their parents. As homeschooled farm kids, my grandchildren get lonely. As a priest whose work/life balance is often out of kilter, I get lonely too. Our Christmas tools enable us to connect and these calls foster joy and connection.

Throughout this Lenten season our gospel lessons have centered on folks who are experiencing the pain of loneliness. Nicodemus is isolated in his spiritual curiosity, cut off because of his professional status from meeting with Jesus in the daylight. The woman at the well is lonely because of her status and social marginalization. This week we encounter the man born blind, whose disability and healing isolate him because of the fear of others. In each case, Jesus connects. The power of relationships bridges the chasm of loneliness.

Jesus invites us to connect with him and each other. Health and healing are to be found in the joy of relationships. Redemption can look like a conversation. The wonder of this season is that while we enter the Lenten wilderness alone, we emerge connected.

-The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector