“Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place and prayed.” - Luke 5:16
The last few years of the pandemic has for many been a place of forced aloneness. Maybe
for the first time, some people discovered what it was like to be alone and unencumbered by
daily routines and distractions. One idea which struck me during the last few years is the
fragility of people’s lives. Community can become just a remote concept as more people
pulled away socially or dig deeper into their isolation.
A while ago I got a call about a young man who had been sober for six years (heroin
addiction). He had a great future ahead of him, yet due to his isolation during Covid, he
relapsed and overdosed. During his memorial service via Zoom, it became clear that no one
had been in touch with him for many months. His AA /NA meetings had always been his
safety net, but when that community was unable to meet in person, he drifted back to his
sorrowful past. This is not an uncommon tale, but the lessons we can learn are two-fold: 1)
We need community; and 2) we need to experience and learn to be alone in healthy ways,
often without the distractions of our omnipresent gadget-filled world.
Last night, a young friend stopped by, almost in a panic. “B.J., my phone broke! I really need
to get connected again!” I had a very purposeful conversation about learning to be
comfortable when “alone,” without the ubiquitous “networks” dominating one’s life.
This May, my longtime pal Father William and I will lead a 3-day retreat (God willing, as my
health holds up.) The theme of our retreat is what it means to be a “Friend of Jesus.” The
first requirement is to shut off our cell phones—then to meditate on “Be still and know that I
am Lord.” Awareness of our fragility can bear fruit when we set aside our distractions and
are present to one another. Some of my best Lenten disciplines are to listen more carefully
to people whom God puts into my life, be attentive to the needs of others, to spend
constructive time in prayer and contemplation, and to find ways to care for the poor (as we
focus on the sorrow and suffering of the people of Ukraine, and others in challenging
During this Lenten season, our “alms” giving may be as simple as finding ways to “love your
neighbor as yourself.” This awareness of others and the sorrow which surrounds our world,
also requires us to be aware of our own thoughts and feelings. As we make room for others,
we need to slip away and make room for ourselves in prayer and friendship with the Lord.
This intimate listening allows us to “abide in Christ” and thus become an attraction to the
Praying for such a grace for us all.
P.S. In the midst of a world in grief, I ask kindly for your prayers and friendship as I continue
my struggle with cancer. (Google Caring Bridge B.J. Weber) The chemo has stopped the
cancer growth; I am stable at the moment, enjoy seeing people, and am buoyed by a spirit of
gratitude and thanksgiving. I have had a life that can only be explained by the love and
transforming power of God and the joy of being known by Jesus. Thank you for caring for me
in my hour of need.