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.
The Scottish Government has announced, that all families in Scotland will have free access to the full Solihull Online resource for parents and carers. This initiative is being delivered in partnership with NES who ERC work in partnership with, Psychology of Parenting Programme. This Solihull Online is a universal resource for parents and carers from the antenatal period to 19 years. It offers a series of modules containing interactive activities, quizzes and video clips. The online resource focuses on developing nurturing and supportive relationships between children and their carers. It aims to help parents understand their child’s behaviour in the context of their child’s development and the parent-child relationship.
The following courses are available free for parents/carers in Scotland
- Understanding pregnancy, labour, birth and your baby
- Understanding your baby
- Understanding your child
- Understanding your teenager’s brain
To access these courses for free, families need to use the access code TARTAN.
Father Stephen’s Homily
O Captain! My Captain!
The final scene of the movie, Dead Poet Society, is one of the most moving in modern cinema. Beloved teacher, Mr Keating is saying a final farewell to his students, who have been inspired by his unorthodox teaching methods and his encouragement to make their lives extraordinary. As he leaves the classroom, the students, in defiance of their strict headmaster, stand on their desks and salute him with the words, ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ – referring to a poem he taught them.
Goodbyes are often emotional, particularly if we know we might not see the other person again for a long time, if ever. In films and TV programmes, a farewell scene can be a pivotal moment, or even the climax of the drama. Sometimes, when characters sat goodbye to each other, we see a shot of one of them left behind, bereft, gazing into the distance after their loved one. In this context, one line in today’s reading always grabs my attention: ‘They were still staring into sky.’ The apostles had just witnessed Jesus being ‘lifted up’ and taken from their sight. They had lost him once with his death, and now they are losing him a second time, after precious time spent with him following his resurrection.
But this Feast Day of the Ascension is no ordinary goodbye. It is not a dramatic scene written for a film script. In fact, Jesus does not seem to say goodbye at all. His last words are a promise to the disciples: the Holy Spirit will be with them as they set out on their mission. They have not been left alone. The Lord is telling the disciples in the Gospel and us the same today – in the meantime you – that you and me – we must preach everywhere, assured that he will work with us from heaven, confirming their word, and our actions with powerful signs. Please remember to sign on for the diocesan Pentecost Novena
Beginning today we have our Pentecost Novena – “ I invite you to join me in praying our Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit again this year, when as a diocesan family, we prepare ourselves for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our Church and on our mission” – Bishop John. The Diocesan Commission for Evangelisation is promoting this Novena for the nine days from Ascension Thursday (21st May) till Pentecost Sunday (31st May). To sign up please access the web address http://eepurl.com/g2D9yP alternatively you can log on each day to the diocesan web page www.rcdop.org.uk or the Facebook page.
Praying deliberately and intentionally for what we need, it is not like inviting somebody to afternoon tea, in a take it or leave it kind of way. Praying deliberately and intentionally involves praying with confidence, praying in the belief God already wants to answer our prayer and grant our request. It means the conviction that God is just waiting for us to ask. It is not God who tires of giving; it is we who tire of asking. This is going to be a wonderful movement of prayer and a transforming movement of prayer and I invite as many people reading now to be part of this.
Crucially and importantly, do not just participate yourself. Invite others, family, friends, neighbours, workmates, anybody and everybody to participate in this prayer of invoking insistently the Holy Spirit for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we might all be renewed and that the face of the earth will be renewed at this time by the Holy Spirit this Pentecost. Renewed in the Holy Spirit we will indeed be able to have our answer ready for people who ask the reason for the hope that is in us. The reason for the hope that is in us is not of this world, it is of God. And we gain access to God through prayer. We need to be a praying people, constantly invoking the Holy Spirit.
Today is the feast of the Ascension, when Jesus went back to his Father. It is also in the Church, the day when we begin to pray the Pentecost novena, nine days of prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to come.
This remembers the prayer of the Apostles and disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem. Acts 1:14 “With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”
Normally, today would be a holy day of obligation, when we would be in school celebrating Mass with our year group and local parish priests. This year of course, nothing is normal, but it would be good to access a live streamed Mass.