"Your word, O Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth." (Alleluia verse)
A few years back, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli released a CD album by the title, "Time to say Goodbye." It became a big hit. Not only are they recognized as two of the top performers in the music world, but the melody and lyrics resonated with us. The experience of saying Goodbye is not an easy one. Not many of us know how to say farewell very well. Furthermore, not many of us know when it’s time for us to say Goodbye, period.
The readings for today’s Mass are all about saying Goodbye. It was time for Paul to say Goodbye to Christian communities he had begun, knowing that he would soon meet his death as a martyr for his faith in the Person of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man. In today’s Gospel, we have Jesus saying Goodbye to his disciples, as prepared for his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Both Paul and Jesus knew it was time to say Goodbye and both knew how to say Goodbye well.
Paul reminded his community that they were to remain faithful to the Gospel in his absence, because it was the Holy Spirit who guiding them. He also reminded them of the difficult times they were going to face in the future, assaults from the outside and attacks from the inside. It was time for this community to take ownership of their own faith and future. They could no longer be dependent upon Paul the great Apostle to the Gentiles. So, saying Goodbye now meant launching them into a new and better future. So Paul finished saying Goodbye by praying with his community.
Jesus also prayed for his followers as he prepared to leave them. Jesus prayed to His God so that these beloved followers would be consecrated in God’s Truth. We have to recognize that when we leave someone or someplace, it is our Truth that will remain, and it is that Truth that will be our bond and will consecrate us to each other.
That may be some of the reasons why it is so difficult for us to say Goodbye. We make saying Goodbye more about "us" than about the Truth that unites us, the Truth that states that once we are one in God and with God, we will never be separated from one another. Our human heart says, "If you leave me, my heart will break." Our Christian heart says, "There is no human suffering that cannot be redemptive, life-giving." Human pain is swallowed up by Grace!
This is a good time for us to reflect upon the many times we have had to say Goodbye in our life. The many deaths that we have experienced in our lives are but an example of having to say Goodbye to loved ones. We may have had to learn to say Goodbye to sinful ways or addictions that dehumanize us. How challenging is that? Or, we may have had to say Goodbye just because it was time, time to leave home, time to leave for another job, time to leave a relationship, time to leave for another city, time to leave for another new way of life.
We need to learn how to pray our Goodbyes. All is grace!
Both Jesus and Paul show us that all good Goodbyes are said in the context of prayer. A good Goodbye increases our love for God, for one another and for ourselves.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.