hello and goodbye
The Ascension Of The Lord
Fr. Ed Hampson
Preached: May 21, 2023
There are moments in life when we say ’hello’ and we say ‘goodbye.’ It happens all through our lives. We learn in childhood that every Hello leads to an eventual Goodbye. And then there are moments that come along where hello and goodbye seem to come at the same time. And when they do, there seems to be a moment between those two things when something happens that sort of holds them together.
The English words “good bye,” the Spanish words “a dios,” and the French words “a dieu” . . . goodbye, adios, adieu, all imply that when we part, in that moment between being here & not being here, between presence & absence, we do well to give someone to God when we can no longer hold them ourselves. Good bye… comes from the words “God be with you.”
In today’s gospel reading & in the 1 reading from Acts, we hear about Jesus’ ASCENSION into heaven. The disciples have questions that are simple, almost childlike, in this story. Like when Mommy & Daddy are getting ready to go out for the evening, and the kids look up from their play & ask “Where are you going?” “Can we come too?” “Who will look after us?”
So, Jesus is about to go. “What’s to become of us?’ He tells them “I am sending upon you what my Father has promised her.” I will not leave you alone or desolate. And it was true. The Paraclete, the Holy Comforter, would come. ’God be with you” Good bye. A poignant moment,
Once upon a time a Mom & Dad & their 7 year old daughter (anyone here who’s 7?) went to a park to fly a kite. The kite was carried way up high by the wind. It soared higher & higher until it disappeared from sight. “Is the kite still up there?” asked the little girl. “Oh yes” answered her Mom. “But how do you know it’s there?” asked her daughter. “Here, hold the string” her Dad said. The little girl took the string & after a few minutes she said “I can feel it. I can fee the tag on he string!”
The Ascension meant that Jesus ’disciples would no longer see him as they had after his resurrection. But they were still able to know Jesus and feel his presence even as he disappeared from their sight, because they had come to know him and had faith in him. And it’s important for us to pay attention to that and think about that.
Many years ago, when I was doing graduate studies at McGill University, I had a professor for whom I had a great deal of respect. His name was Eric Jay, and he taught Historical Theology. Prof. Jay was an elderly English Christian gentleman who was as brilliant & knowledgeable as he was humble.
I’ll always remember him lecturing on the Ascension. He said that his own research had led him to the conviction that amongst the people of the earliest Church, Christians valued the ascension as much as they did the resurrection. Because this was the Messiah of God, the Christ who had come to them from God, who was now returning to the Father.
And the fact that the disciples witnessed this was a kind of verification of their faith. It gave them courage, strengthened their conviction, and prepared them for the road ahead. One thing I came to value in particular about the Ascension, thanks to Prof. Jay, was that, from the perspective of our faith, it really is like a multi labeled diamond; it sends it’s light out in many different directions at the same time. This is one of those directions.
Professor Jay reminded us that the ancient Greeks had a particular word for us human beings: “anthropos,” & that if you translate ‘anthropos’ literally, it means “the upward looking creature.” That is, our ability to look up & out beyond ourselves to God is what makes us uniquely human.
With the Ascension, we see the disciples looking up to Jesus as he takes his leave. But… there is more here. Because, in other ways, the disciples had already been looking up to Jesus throughout his ministry. They saw his courage, his self sacrifice, his compassion for people, they heard his wisdom, his understanding, his teaching, they saw him bring healing & hope to people. They looked up to him because of what they saw. And, more and more, they wanted to be like him. That that is so important.
Human development theorists call that “idealizing.” It’s about our search, as we grow & develop, for someone or something to look up to: an ideal to make our own; a worthwhile purpose or standard to grow towards, a person who embodies what we are coming to value and whom we respect and admire; a stable, calm, powerful Other whom we choose to model ourselves after.
The disciples had already been looking up to Jesus, so, in a way, looking up to him at the Ascension was the most natural expression of their relationship with Him that there could be. The Ascension was about Jesus, but it was also about them… about them becoming people in whom others could find Christ. Like them, we are meant to become what we see in Christ; it’s how we fulfill our God given destiny.
Somewhere in our own journeys through life, we will come to moments when we find ourselves saying hello and goodbye. In those moments, our whole lifetime of becoming can make a world of difference. When we have become more like Him our life will have become a sign of God’s presence. When we choose to live our life in faith, our life looks more like His:
- It’s you and me choosing to pray at the dinner table and share our life with God each day.
- It’s choosing to forego selfishness and look to the good of others and even to protect them whenever we can because they are our brothers and sisters.
- It can even be about letting go of that opinion we’ve held onto so tightly, so that we can conform our behaviour more to His.
- It’s coming to Mass and expressing our love for God and our need for God’s guidance.
- It’s about standing up to injustice and about bringing healing and support and hope where we can. It’s about caring for those whose circumstances are more challenging than our own.
- It’s about holding and being held by our faith. And our parents, our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues need to see IN US the difference that that faith makes in our lives, so that they too can become more like Him.
That is what matters in those moments between hello & goodbye, when the arc of our lives reaches out for what ultimately holds us together and brings us to God’s kingdom.
Once upon a time there was a mother who would take her little boy to nursery school. She would kiss him good bye and she’d always say to him ”Darling, I’m leaving you in good hands, OK?” She did this every day she took her son to school. The years went by… and became decades upon decades. When the son was well into his adult years and his mother was quite old and experiencing dementia, she needed care to be available 24/7. So they made the decision to place her in an extended care home. The day came, and the son took his dear mom to the care home. And as he said good bye on the first day that she was there, he remembered the words his mother had said to him when he was quite young; so he kissed her and said, “Mom I’m leaving you in good hands.” And his mother, who could hardly remember things now because of dementia held on to her son’s hands and tears started flowing down from her eyes, She remembered her very own words from years ago. “I’m leaving you in good hands.” Good bye. “God be with you.” what is new will come, & I will be with you.
Jesus’ Ascension is something all of us can look up to. He was saying to them… and to us “I’m leaving you in good hands.” For us, the Ascension means that our inevitable good bye will also mean an everlasting ’hello.’ We can trust Him with who we are, and we can become more like who He is. Amen.