The Ascension of the Lord – 19
A new pastor in a small Midwestern town spent the first four days making personal visits to each of the members, inviting them to come to his first service.
The following Sunday, the church was all but empty. Accordingly, the pastor placed a notice in the local newspapers, stating that because the church was dead, it is everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial.
The funeral would be held the following Sunday afternoon, the notice stated. Morbidly curious, a large crowd turned out for the “funeral.” In front of the pulpit, they saw a closed coffin, smothered with flowers.
After the pastor delivered the eulogy, he opened the coffin and invited his congregation to come forward and pay their final respects to their dead church.
Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a “dead church”, all the people lined up to look into the coffin. Each “mourner” peeped into the coffin then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look.
In the coffin, tilted at the correct angle, was a large mirror!
I think that I can speak for us all when I say that we want the good things in our life to last as long as possible.
When we have been blessed, when we are with the people that we love, when we are happy with our family or our job, we do not want any of these good things to change.
Such good things energize us, comfort us, and give us joy. Now having said that, it is also true to say that life does not allow us to hold onto the good things we have forever.
Life changes and we must change with it. Therefore, a fundamental skill of living is learning how to say goodbye. It is a true blessing when we learn how to say good-bye well.
Sr. Joyce Rupp has collected thoughts on this issue in her book PRAYING OUR GOODBYES.
She defines a goodbye as an empty space within us, something that occurs in any situation where there is loss or incompleteness. We carry then an emptiness that cries out to be filled.
Those empty places are created when we have to say goodbye to our parents, or our spouse, or our children, or our friends; when we have to say goodbye to familiar surroundings or secure homes;
when we change a job; when we have to adjust to a new financial reality; when we say farewell to our healthy bodies; or we change our ideas, our values, or our self-image.
On this Feast of the Ascension, the disciples in today’s gospel had to face a major goodbye. They had to say goodbye to the physical presence of Jesus.
As Jesus ascended to the Father he promised the Spirit who would be with them always. But he would no longer physically be present to them as he was in his ministry or in his glorious body after the resurrection.
Life was changing and the disciples had to let go of what they once had. But even as Jesus leaves them, he also points out to the disciples a way in which they can say goodbye well.
He points it out not only for their benefit but for ours. Jesus asks them to remember the things of the past, his death and resurrection, and the proclamation of the Good News.
He says to them, “You will be witness to all these things.” Now at first it might seem strange or counter-intuitive to point to the past as a way of dealing with Jesus’ departure.
After all, remembering the past is remembering the very things we no longer have. But by asking them to witness to the past Jesus is actually showing the disciples an effective way of saying goodbye well.
Jesus asks us to remember the people and the things of the past, not so that we can lament because we no longer have them, but to remember them so that we can see that they were God’s blessings.
Such a recognition leads us then to the belief that the same God who blessed us in the past, will bless us again.
When we can witness to God’s presence in a love of a person we once had, or in a relationship we once shared, or in our youth that we once possessed, or in any gift of familiarity that we once enjoyed, we remind ourselves that God’s love is real.
When we witness to God’s blessings, even though those gifts are no longer ours, God is still ours.
By claiming God’s presence we affirm our faith that God is prepared to lead us into the future and to lead us to goodness.
Witnessing to God’s presence in our past is a way of saying goodbye to the gifts that are ending and at the same time preparing ourselves for the gifts that will be offered.
Life changes, but God remains the same. Life changes, and therefore every person must learn how to say goodbye.
But Christians can say goodbye with the spirit of hope because we witness to the good gifts of the past believing that the same God who gave us those gifts still loves us.
Jesus Christ was lifted up to heaven before the eyes of his disciples. This makes us wonder why did Jesus Christ leave his disciples for Heaven? What does Ascension of the Lord mean to us?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines that Heaven is where God and saints live. Heaven is an everlasting life.
Heaven is an eternal life. Heaven is the final and biggest reward for those who are faithful to God. Heaven is where people will be satisfied completely.
Actually we were born not for challenges, but we are born for changes. We don’t intend to live for persecution. But change or challenge and persecution are always around human life, especially Christian life.
We live like everyone does but we need to remember that we are on the journey of life. Our destination is heaven. Till we reach heaven the life keeps changing.
My message is, do not glue yourselves permanently on earth. We have a permanent home only in heaven not on this earth.
Everything won’t last forever on the earth. We should live, should work and should serve people on the earth with love and with our enthusiasm but remember always that we are going to everlasting life in heaven.
From the perspective of faith, the other side of every Goodbye is a new Hello.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.