What Good-Bye Means

(Homily for Ascension of the Lord, Year B)

Bottom line: Jesus shows what good-bye means.

These have been difficult, painful days. I am so appreciative of your support, warmth and care. The children of Holy Family have particularly affected me these past weeks. "I don't want you to leave," a number of them told me. The deepest impression came from one of our long-time parishioners. He was, I confess, a man I did not know well, but he was always faithfully present at Sunday Mass. After Mass, he approached with eyes glistening, "Father Bloom," he said, "you have been a good spiritual leader." He reminded me so much of my own dad that it almost broke my heart.

Saying good-bye is one of the most painful things in life. Even if we have good hope of seeing each other again, to say good-bye reminds us of the final separation that we all must face. Again, I think of my dad. He was a plain, working man, not given to express his emotions. He had his personal demons, but by God's grace, he overcame them - and he made his choice for his wife, his family and for God. When his time came, he had two good days - relatively comfortable and free of pain - to say his good-byes. But those days were full of a different kind of pain - a pain that pierces like steel. Yet there were also beautiful moments, ones I will always treasure.

Today's readings speak about Jesus being taken "from their sight." That separation must have been poignant for the disciples. The reading says that they were "looking intently at the sky." Suddenly two mysterious "men dressed in white garments stood beside them." These visitors had to call their attention back to earth, to the task before them. As they took up their duties, a realization came over them: Jesus' separation was a necessary prelude to a profound union, a union that would last.

In St. Mark's Gospel we learn that our union with Jesus is expressed in practical ways: driving out demons, communicating in new languages, protection from harm (both external and internal) and healing of the sick, by laying on of hands. Those things will happen not because of our ingenuity, but because of Jesus' presence and power.

In the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to express good-byes. There is a very human dimension to this and that part is painful. I can understand people not wanting to go through it. But we are also people of faith. Jesus shows us what "good-bye" means. We see it on this Feast of the Ascension. He ascended, but he also descended. Because he is high above us, we adore him as God. But - precisely because he is God, high above us - he can be with us in a powerful and enduring way. As disciples of Jesus, we know what "good-bye" means.

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Intercessions for Ascension of the Lord (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From the Archives (Ascension Homilies):

2015 (Year B): Disciple Makers Week 7: Be Part of the Story
2014 (Year A): Journey to Hope Week 7
2013 (Year C): The Way He Opened
2012 (Year B): He Took Prisoners Captive
2011 (Year A): The Personal Center
2010 (Year C): Disappear vs. Leave
2009 (Year B): What Good-Bye Means
2008 (Year A): Ascension Quotes
2007 (Year C): Separation of Church and State
2006 (Year B): Whoever Believes and is Baptized
2005 (Year A): There the Action Lies
2004 (Year C): Forgiveness - In His Name
2003 (Year B): What Does "He Ascended" Mean?
2002 (Year A): Finding the Way Home (Ascension & Mother's Day)
2001 (Year C): Submission to Jesus
2000 (Year B): Beyond the Secular Paradigm
1999 (Year A): A Wake Up Call
1998 (Year C): Jesus' Rule Vs. Cafeteria Catholicism

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