Some years ago Frank Sinatra, Jr., sang a song with the haunting title, The Trouble with Hello is Goodbye. It is the lament of all mortals. All good things come to an end. Whether it is the end of a beautiful day, the end of a productive career, or the end of a relationship, it is hard to say goodbye.
But that song’s lament can open our eyes to meaning. In a movie titled The Other Side of the Mountain, there was a parting scene. Someone was leaving and shared this insight. “How lucky is that person who loves someone so much that it is so hard to say goodbye.” I have used this quote often at funerals. Because the bereaved are struggling to say goodbye, it shows that there was a deep love for the deceased. It shows that their relationship was meaningful and worthwhile. They were lucky. They were blessed.
In today’s gospel, Jesus starts warning the apostles that he would soon have to say goodbye to them. At first, they didn’t understand. But after Good Friday, Easter and finally the Ascension they got the message. Jesus would no longer walk with them as he had for the last three years. They would no longer have the consolation of his physical presence anymore.
Fortunately, for them (and for us), Jesus knew how to handle the situation. First, at the Last Supper, he promised them, “I will not leave the orphans. I will come back to you”(John 14:18). So, at that supper, he gave them his body and blood, the Holy Eucharist. He would be with them throughout their lives in this new sacramental presence. They would also encounter him, “where two or three are gathered in my name.” (Cf. Mathew18:20) They would also meet up with him in the poor.“Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40). And they would experience him through love. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them” (1 John 4:16).
Jesus wanted to be with his apostles (and us) for all eternity. So he died on the cross and rose from the dead so that their (and our) relationship with him would last forever.
Yes, the trouble with hello is goodbye. But as a German proverb states, “Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.” We are so lucky. We are so blessed.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/