The Gospel retells the story of Jesus bidding them goodbye and promising them the Holy Spirit who will take his place. The disciples became sad and their hearts were heavy (“Grief had filled their hearts”). But Jesus said that his leaving was necessary, ‘It would be better for you that I go.’ The Holy Spirit would not come unless Jesus left.
There are goodbyes that are necessary. Death for example is part of the cycle of life. As we grow older, we let the younger ones take their path. As children grow older, partings are inevitable: they leave us for college; they take permanent residency somewhere when they marry and build a family. As new career paths are chosen, our friends study or work abroad.
For me, May is the time of many goodbyes. Every May, Jesuits who are assigned to another area begin packing their things and head for mission. I remember the time I was assigned to Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City. The mandate is to be in the area on or before May 15th. May reminds me that I am vulnerable. It carries the truth that life is fragile, that there is no guarantee that people can be with you permanently. There is always a certain dying in living and loving and that change will be inevitable. Many people call this the pain of separation. No wonder the disciples grieved over the fact that Jesus, their friend, would also leave them.
But Jesus said, that these goodbyes are necessary for growth. Life has its going, grieving and growing. The child who leaves home for college needs to do it for his future. The newly married son or daughter needs to build a family on their own. The Jesuit’s parting is part of his life’s mission and purpose. Another kind of life is offered to the one who leaves and to the one who is left behind.
And so we pray today that we may grow accustomed to the life’s cycles of partings and goings. And believe that in every goodbye is a promise of new life.