Saying goodbye is good and yet it can be difficult. Goodbyes can be painful as it is challenging for some families depending on the dynamics in the family, but where there is love, deep love, there is hope. And where there is hope Jesus tells us he is there.
A week last Saturday two friends of mine from County Armagh, Oonagh and Nulua buried their brother Eamon. This experience was strengthened by their gift of faith, and if you knew them, they are full of faith amidst all the pain they have carried over the years. Yet at this time when you are not allowed to gather as a family and friends around you – it is devastating. Saying goodbyes we need and gather as a family. They are around us, as the Apostles were around Jesus in the Gospel today. The number of people who were able to zoom in and use social media is consoling at the funeral, but how do we say our goodbyes in these arenas? Streaming it is fine, but there is nothing we could do. We could not express our emotions or our affection. We were there in spirit for the family – a spirit of comfort and a spirit of strength.
The day before Eamon died, he said that he was not able to die because the silage was not brought in. So the family and neighbours came together to bring in their silage, because this was his life as a farmer. All the local farmers worked right through the night until 1:00am. As a community they told him ‘Be at rest now’. So before the Lord said his goodbye he told his disciples I want you to be at peace. And you can do this by unifying yourselves. That’s what Oonagh and Nulua’ s family and neighbours did last week! That’s what we can do as a community in St Joseph’s and in St Bridget’s. That is what we can do in Eaglesham and in Clarkston. That’s natural for us and that is what the Lord is asking us to do.
If we are saying goodbye, there is often one really important thing we want to say before departure. The prayer of unity is the last thing Jesus says to his disciples in his farewell prayer. He tells the Apostles that he loves them, that He will send the Spirit, and that they need to be unified so that they will survive all the persecutions and troubles that will come along. ‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you.’
This week’s Gospel is a wonderful, hope-filled message today. It is a message of empowerment and encouragement. The Ascension last week reminds us that the pain, death and grief will not have the last word. We are called to be Easter people. We are invited to shine the light of hope into the darkness of the tomb. We do it when we console the bereaved, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and forgive those who have hurt us. We do it, above all, when we exercise charity. Amen
This Sunday we mark World Social Communications Day. Unfortunately the Pope’s Message was published in January before the worldwide impact of Coronavirus and so the Holy Father’s Message does seem oddly detached from the reality we are all currently living.
However, what has become clear these days is how people seek out spiritual support in spite of, or perhaps because of, not being able to come to church. We have responded to that need by using technology (for some of us a real challenge!) to build up and encourage, not just maintain, the faith of those in our parishes and, through the Internet, far beyond parish boundaries.
Exactly ten years ago Pope Benedict asked priests “to respond pastorally (to the new era) by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word”. Looking round our Diocese I think we would be justified in feeling a sense of satisfaction in our pastoral response to this “new era” and be confident as we move towards the “new normal”.
Stay safe. May God bless and reward each one of you. God bless you all this weekend. As we walk through another week of this pandemic think positive, pray for others, think of others and in a special way this day as the Father glorifies His Son as he ascends to heaven in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit let us remember those going through mental anguish, give them peace of mind.
Let us pray –
we pray today for those who are confronted by the sadness and confusion of mental illness, and for those upon whom they
depend for attention and compassionate care.
Look with mercy on all whose afflictions bring them weakness, distress, confusion or isolation.
Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give to them understandinghelpers and the willingness to accept help.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.