Ascension3

GOD OF GOODBYES
Ascension Sunday, Cycle A

 

Today’s Gospel Reading is about goodbyes and partings. After spending forty days with His disciples after the Resurrection, the Lord ascends to heaven, but not without first bidding farewell to His closest friends.

We can say that our Lord was no stranger to goodbyes. Like us, He witnessed—and was wounded—by the comings and goings of people in His life: the death of His foster father Joseph, His departure from Mary and His childhood friends in Nazareth for His public ministry, some of His followers and friends who could not accept His message and eventually walked away from Him.

Among all His goodbyes, perhaps His most painful one was at the Last Supper, the night before His crucifixion. We tend to think that Jesus knew every single thing that was going to happen to Him. But if Jesus was a real human being as the Church insists, “like us in all things,” then by His own free choice, some things must have been hidden from His knowledge too. And so we say that on the night of the Last Supper, maybe He was not sure if He would see His friends again.

But now, right before His ascension, as He says goodbye to His closest friends, the farewell He bids is different. This time, the Risen Lord, His divinity fully revealed, knows better: He knows that his departing is only temporary. The Risen Lord leaves the disciples to be at the side of the Father, but He will come again.

More than that, our Lord knows that their separation is only apparent. They only seem to be separated, but in truth, they will be closer than ever. He only seems to be leaving them, but actually they will not at all be apart. Despite His seeming absence, He will be truly present to them in ways they have never suspected before. That is why the angels in the Acts of the Apostles tell the disciples who had just witnessed the Ascension: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the skies?” In other words, Jesus is not up there, but here among us.

This abiding presence of Jesus, though invisible, is possible because of Easter. In the Resurrection, our Lord has overcome the greatest distance- that insurmountable distance that separates the living and the dead- and His love has been proven stronger than death, capable of reaching even beyond death.

And so as He leaves His disciples before He ascends to heaven, He knows that for as long as He loves them, He never really leaves them behind. As St Paul writes so beautifully, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” Love binds us together, its embrace ever far-reaching.

It is only natural that at every moment of goodbye, we feel the pain of separation. Perhaps it has been years. And despite the years, we may still wince at our pain. Our eyes may still glisten at the memory of our loss. Our hearts may still grieve over the letting go. But let us remember the truths that our faith teaches us.

First, remember Jesus. Like Him, we who are children of Easter should know better. We should be able to see that deeper than our pain and our tears is the truth that because of the love of Christ, no separation is ever final. In Christ, every parting is only temporary. In Christ, goodbye is never the last word. The love of Christ binds us together, His embrace ever far-reaching.

Remember also that because of Jesus, God Himself like us, is no stranger to goodbyes. Because of Jesus, our God is also a God of goodbyes. Even in our goodbyes, God is very much present because He knows what it means to leave behind or to be left behind.

And so, because of Jesus, even our tear-filled goodbyes can be blessed moments and graced moments if we go through them with love.

Also, try to remember that a forgotten prayer hidden in the word “goodbye”, is a prayer that has long disappeared into the word.   Everytime we say, “goodbye,” we are really praying, “God be with you.” At the moment we say goodbye, we are saying, “At this point in our lives, for some reason beyond you and me, i can no longer be with you nor you with me.   But I pray that God be with you.” And God will be with us, no matter how far we are from Him, or far apart we are from one another.

And so, despite the distances between us- be it a distance between places or a distance between people’s hearts, because of the love of Christ, we are never really apart. God’s love binds us together, His ever far-reaching.

Because of Christ, we who are His followers dare to hope that in the end, when the world runs out of time, God will gather all our goodbyes, some still shimmering with our tears, and He will transform each tear-filled goodbye into the laughter-filled reunion of friends that is the surprise of paradise.

 

REV. FR. JOHNNY C. GO. SJ
President, Xavier School

 

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