One of the more happy words in our language, or in any language, is the word, “Hello.” “Hello” has a nice ring to it. It is often spoken with warmth, with a sense of hospitality, and even a feeling of adventure. It’s a word that says, “Something is about to begin.” A simple “Hello” can be the beginning of a lifetime friendship. The problem with “Hello” is “Goodbye.” In fact, that was the haunting title of a song sung some years ago by Frank Sinatra, Jr., The Trouble with Hello is Goodbye.
It is the lament of all mortals. “All good things here on earth come to an end.” Whether it is the end of a beautiful day, the end of a productive career, or the end of a relationship, it is difficult to say, “Goodbye.”
This is especially true this time of year when so many young people are graduating. These young people are saying “Goodbye” to longtime friends as they move on to another school. Or they are saying “Goodbye” to their parents as they go off to college. Or they are simply saying “Goodbye” to years of school as they graduate and go off to start a job.
But sometimes the word “Goodbye” opens our eyes to a deeper understanding of reality. In an old movie titled, The Other Side of the Mountain, there was a parting scene. A young man was leaving for a long period of time and he shared this insight. “How lucky is that person who loves someone so much that it is so hard to say goodbye.”
I have used this quote often at funerals. Because the bereaved are struggling to say “Goodbye,” it shows that there was a deep love for the deceased. It shows that their relationship was meaningful and worthwhile. They were so lucky. They were so blessed.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says “Goodbye ”to his friends, the apostles. He is leaving them, ascending back to the Father. After three years of walking with Jesus, listening to him, being trained by him, and just enjoying him, the apostles would no longer have the consolation of his physical presence anymore.
Fortunately, for them (and for us), Jesus knew how to handle the situation. Jesus didn’t want to leave them. At the Last Supper, he promised them, “I will not leave the orphans. I will come back to you”(John 14:18). So, at that supper, he gave them his Body and Blood, the Holy Eucharist. He would be with them throughout their lives in this new sacramental presence.
They would also encounter him when they gathered together in prayer. He told them, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” (Mathew18:20). They would also meet up with him in the poor. He said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40). They would make contact with him when the Scriptures are proclaimed. Vatican Council II stated, “He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church.”
And they would experience him through genuine human love. In the words of St. John, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them” (1 John 4:16).
Jesus wanted to be with his apostles (and us) for all eternity. For this to happen, he died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that their (and our) relationship with him would last forever.
If Jesus had not risen from the dead, we would not have any hope for life after death. But because he rose, we who are baptized into him do indeed have hope to rise with him.
That means that the “Goodbye” we say when a loved one dies, or the “Goodbye” we say to our family and friends when we die, that “Goodbye” is a temporary word. We shall see them again, thanks to the love of God that conquers sin, and the power of God that conquers death. With St. Paul we can mock death. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul proclaimed, “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55)? You lose. Jesus wins. And we are on his side.
Yes, the trouble with “Hello” is “Goodbye,” especially at the time of death. But because of Christ’s resurrection, instead of “Goodbye,” we are able to say, “Till we meet again…” As a German proverb states, “Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.”
We are so lucky. We are so blessed. Come, let us offer our gift to say, “Thank You! Thank you very much!