It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

            We know how tough departures can be. Saying “so long” or “farewell” to a loved one whom we may not see again can sometimes be a bittersweet, melancholic, heartbreaking, or even traumatic experience. These last adieus are certainly ingrained in our memory and our loved ones’ final words and actions become treasurable and unforgettable.

            These experiences allow us to relate to the early disciples’ difficulty in saying goodbye to our Lord. When the appropriate time arrived, Jesus said to them, “I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:4b-7) The thought of Jesus departing to return to His Heavenly Father filled the disciples with misery and mourning even after He emphasized its necessity…

            Jesus’ words concerning His death sought to apprise His disciples of its salvific purpose. However, their sadness did not permit them to comprehend that Jesus would rise from the dead. Therefore, after the Lord’s passion and death, He spent forty days confirming His resurrection through words and deeds and thoroughly instructing His apostles. After these days, He articulated His final command before going back to Heaven, saying, “’Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:15-19)

Christ Ascended to Heaven

            The disciples witnessed the Lord being taken up to heaven. However, this departure did not fill them with sadness. Rather, “they did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” (Luke 24:52-53) Why? Even though the Risen Lord had ascended to heaven, He still remained with them as He promised in Matthew 28:20. Certainly, Christ dwells in His Church as her head and is present in the proclaimed word of God, in the sacraments, in the ministers, and in the people assembled by God in His love. Indeed, Christ’s risen presence saturates His disciples with hope and joy.

            Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended, body and soul, into heaven from Mount Olivet. He, God the Son, ascended by His own divine power in the company of angels and in the presence of the disciples. On this Ascension Day, Jesus’ humanity entered the glory of God in the heavenly kingdom and sat at God’s right hand, opening the heavenly doors for all who turn to God wholeheartedly. From that triumphant day, Jesus Christ governs as true God and true man over all creation with the glory and honor of God’s power and authority. Furthermore, the priestly marks of His sacrificial death are eternally present before the Father to recall His perpetual mercy and justice. Hence, He intercedes constantly for each one of us before God the Father so that we may attain everything that is necessary through the presence, power, and gift of the Holy Spirit.

            Truly, there are moments when we may doubt God’s presence in our lives and grieve His apparent departure. Occasionally, our Lord may permit these periods of dryness, darkness, or desolation for our spiritual good and well-being. Nonetheless, when we remain faithful to God and persevere in trust and hope, we discover at some point that these experiences allowed us to grow spiritually and that God was always present. Therefore, Christians can assuredly invoke the Holy Spirit and rely on His assistance, knowing that He will guide them even when they may not perceive His presence and work.

The Spirit of Christ is With Us

            Jesus promised to send us another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son send us the third Person of the Blessed Trinity to empower us to believe that God dwells within and among us, to place our complete hope in the Risen Lord, and to live and love as God’s children. The Spirit’s work in our lives is crucial in preparing us for the Second coming of Christ. No one has known when our Lord will return and no one will ever know beforehand. However, we do know that Christ will return in glory. Hence, those who followed the commandments of God; who were faithful to Christ’s teachings and to the traditional teachings of the Church; and who rejected sin and continuously endeavored to live a holy life will achieve salvation by the grace of God.

            Indeed, the Lord yearns for the salvation of all people. Therefore, it is imperative that His message of salvation be proclaimed to all people. God entrusts Christians with the mission of proclaiming the Gospel by sharing their Christian testimony; by living exemplary Christian lives; by patiently encouraging others to know, love, and follow Christ in His Church; and by generously serving the Lord using the gifts, talents, or charisms that were received from the Holy Spirit.

            As we journey on this road toward heaven, we’ll encounter numerous experiences and people and form relationships with many of them. A number of these relationships will develop, others will transition, and a few others will terminate for one reason or another. Consequently, several of these interpersonal connections may leave us feeling rejected, abandoned, forlorn, or sorrowful. During these moments, let us turn to the Lord. The Risen Christ comprehends what we are going through given that He felt the same way when his disciples did not accompany Him during His gruesome passion and death. He who said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:18) visits us with His presence. His Spirit of love also encourages us to travel on this earth-to-heaven journey with faith, hope, and perseverance by reminding us of Christ’s promise. Let us not fear, but let us in all circumstances love and praise the Lord who calls us to Himself.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1-3)

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