In the summer of 1985 as part of my seminary training I served as a pastoral intern at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Visiting the sick and dying was a part of a formation program called Clinical Pastoral Education. What I found out in the course of my training was that I was pretty good going into a patient’s room; it was the going out that I needed to learn. Specifically learning not to overstay my welcome. I remember one day when I was visiting with a lady I got a gentle prodding to make my exit. “Seminarian Dan,” she said with a smile, “God and I have things to talk about now and we can’t do it until you leave.”
I can’t help but think about her words on this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Jesus did everything that the Father asked of him and he did it with the utmost love and courage. Still we celebrate in today’s feast that he had to return to the Father. “If I do not go to the Father, the Spirit cannot come to you.” Wasn’t Jesus saying, “I have done the work that the Father sent me to do. Now I must leave so that you may do the work that the Father needs you to do.”
Some of you understand this. I am thinking of those of us who have buried our parents. “What am I gonna do without you, Mom?” we said at our mother’s bedside as she lay dying. And our mom smiled and said, “You’ll find your way…I will be with you. It’s time for me to go Home.” Over the course of months and years we have found that they were telling the truth. Her absence has revealed to us a hidden well of wisdom and strength. We find ourselves drawing from almost daily from what we learned from her. Isn’t this at least part of the meaning in Jesus’ words to his disciples, “It’s better for you that I go.”
On this Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension I hope we can come to not only cherish and value the good-byes in our life, but also see those good-byes as gateways into a deeper relationship with God.