In our yearly liturgical calendar, this is an in-between week whereby we sit in a void between Jesus’ departure while awaiting the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit. We do this every year. And for some, this absence intensifies their desire to call out, “Come Holy Spirit!” I reflect on these readings today having celebrated graduations for the past couple of weeks. Graduations, after all, are times of transition. Graduates have worked to accomplish all their requirements, and then in a single celebration, they have to move on. In some ways, this is the story Luke shares with us in the first reading today. We find Paul taking leave from the people he loves in Emphasis.
As I have witnessed leave-taking with graduations, there are plenty of stories which both connect the group together and give definition and identity. The class belongs together because of the common experiences they hold. And many of these events defined who they are. And it’s easy to predict that when their class anniversaries roll around, the stories which defined their time together will be retold several times over. Additionally, there is always talk about the future, as uncertain as it may be.
It makes so much sense that Luke would include these elements of Paul’s leave-taking. His love for the Church of Ephesus is portrayed in his teachings, and his willingness to endure hardships. He speaks of the future, knowing Paul can’t protect them from all the things that will be coming their way. But he does have the ability to “commend them to God”. Luke doesn’t have Paul simply walking out of the picture into the sunset like a spaghetti western. Before the elders walk Paul back to the ship, He reconnects them with prayer, just like we find Jesus doing in today’s Gospel. Indeed, Jesus’ prayer is his preparation to take leave as he entrusts his little ones into his Father’s care.
Similarly, Paul does the same:
When he [Paul] had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.
Maybe it is our turn to think a little about how we take leave of others. And even as those events happen, we may be surprised to find we can still remain connected to them. If by chance, you want to go a little deeper, ponder how deeply you are connected because of Jesus’ prayer to his Father for you.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.