Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Ascension of the Lord

So many people have lost loved ones during this pandemic. Grieving is never easy and involves a process that allows us the time to work through our emotions and memories. When someone we love and are attached to in so many ways dies, a void is created that needs time and prayer to fill in life giving ways. So many people during this crisis have been deprived of the one essential part of grieving: being present to the dying person. Making matters even more painful is the sad reality of not being able to have a funeral or memorial service.

With all these realities in mind. I prayed over the words of Jesus in today’s gospel that might bring some degree of comfort to those grieving in many different ways. He is preparing the disciples, not only for his imminent death, but his going back to the Father in the Ascension. “You will grieve,” he says, “but your grief will be turned to joy.” This hit me, not with a “ton of bricks,” but with a “gentle breeze.” Metaphors truly matter.

I felt a beautiful comfort by these words as my family awaits the death of my phenomenal aunt, who has graced our lives for almost 97 years. Because her death makes sense, given her age, it doesn’t make it any easier. Grief is grief and the void her death will create can’t be underestimated nor dismissed.

Life is all about facing the many experiences of grieving, of letting go, when we lose loved ones, jobs, good health, relationships, beloved pets. We grieve whenever an emotional void is created within our hearts. This needs to be honored and respected, not to mention acknowledged. And we are called to walk with people as they grieve by simply being with them and prayer. Words aren’t usually needed, except the beautiful words of Jesus that heal, understand and accompany.

Grieving is almost always temporary and gives way to a new way of living and moving forward. Our perspective changes as we begin to experience our lives differently and are able to peacefully “move on.” Jesus assures that joy can film the void if we eventually allow it to do so. But God gives us the freedom to hang on and cling, if we do choose, but at our own peril. It’s so sad to see people unable or unwilling to let go.
When my mom passed away, I thought I could never get over this loss, so immense was the grief. But time and patience gave way to letting go, but treasuring the wonderful memories of her, memories which never die, unless I forget them. And faith, deep faith, keeps reminding me that she is truly alive, but in a different way. We will meet again, with coffee and cannoli in hand , or, as she used to say, “Coffee and...”

And so we all learn to move on in life, creating new relationships and jobs, we bring new pets in our lives, we forge new loves and we work at different jobs. Yes, life does go on, a beautiful thing, and we are all the better for it. “My joy will be yours,” says our Lord and Savior. Died. Risen. Ascended. He lives forever.. and so do we.

Peace, Joy,
Fr. Frank