Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday in the 7th Week of Easter
Final Farewell

Readings: Acts 20:17-27; Psalm 68:10-11, 20-21; John 17:1-11a

Today we listen to the farewell speeches of two different men. One is a tentmaker, the other a carpenter. One has traveled far and wide across Asia Minor and now speaks at a place called Miletus. The other has moved only within the narrow confines of ancient Palestine and now speaks in the city of Jerusalem. One addresses what is probably a largely gentile audience, the other has been speaking to fellow Jews and now prays to his Father in heaven. These are two different men, speaking at different times and places, to different groups of people.

Yet, the content of what they have to say is strikingly similar. Both are bidding their final farewell. And in so doing, both offer a summary of what their lives have been about, of what they have stood and fought for. Still, even though they are both speaking about themselves, the central place in their respective accounts is occupied by Someone else. For his part, Paul states his earnest desire: that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me… to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace. And as far as his audience – the Ephesians – are concerned, his conscience is clear in having without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose. Clearly, it is God’s grace and God’s purpose that has been and continues to be the driving force in Paul’s life. The same can be said of Jesus. I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Both Paul and Jesus have allowed their lives to revolve solely around the will of God. Indeed, this is the poignant reason why they are bidding their farewells. One will make his way to Rome, to imprisonment and decapitation. The other will be made to climb a hill outside Jerusalem where he will shed his life-blood on a cross. The sacrifice of one will imitate and make known that of the other. For it is through this Other’s sacrifice that the fruit of eternal life will be borne for all. And eternal life is this: to know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Two very different men. Two very similar lives. And this is only to be expected. For one is the follower and the other the Master. The first is a Christian. The second is the Christ.

And what of us? When the time comes for us to bid our final farewell, what will we be speaking of?

1 comment:

  1. When Fr Reid passed on in February this year, I wept buckets. Unabashedly. It was strange for several reasons. Firstly, I had prepared myself for that day years ago. Secondly, I am convinced that he had gone to his eternal reward - and we should be happy for him. Thirdly, like many others, I was a beneficiary of the friendship and holiness of the priest and so should be thankful for that. So why the unrestrained mourning?

    Farewells are always hard and final farewells the hardest. It is a natural human emotion because those near and dear and familiar are no longer physically present with us. The truth of the matter is that nothing in the material world stays forever. All creation moves on - Paul to his mission and Jesus to His destiny. To both Paul and Jesus, there was a higher, more cogent calling that they must heed. Surely, at a human level, like those that they were leaving behind, they must have wrestled with the desire to stay and the urge to move on.

    When it is time for me to bid my final farewell, I can only beg God for forgiveness for the things that I should have said or done but didn't.