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A farewell is a powerful experience.  Even a simple one of a person going to the airport can elicit a host of emotions.  How much more a farewell whose effect will last forever?
Years ago, I read an excellent book on farewells:  Praying Our Goodbyes.  I loved the book and I hated the book at the same time.  It taught me that goodbyes need prayerful reflection because they are not only emotions, but life-changing experiences. But the book made me cry a lot in my room that I never touched it again!
Today, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven.  After 40 days since the Resurrection and a series of apparitions to his disciples and close friends, finally, Jesus returns to the Father to claim his heavenly glory.  Looking at some depictions of this event, it would seem that Jesus very serenely floated on air while being transported beyond the clouds.  The apostles too, seemed utterly bewildered at the sight of a glorious Lord.
But I am sure Jesus had powerful emotions leaving behind his flock and saying goodbye to his plans with them for the Kingdom.  It is not easy to abandon your projects and the desires of your heart.  It is not easy to part from people you love. and the disciples now feel orphaned by someone on whom they pinned all their hopes.  To whom will they turn?  How will they continue without his direction?
This week, a near tragedy brought us together as a family.  My mother, suffering for 2 years already from her lung cancer situation, entered a critical stage.  As  a priest, I thought I knew what to do and how to deal with the eventuality of losing a mother. I thought I was not one to cling to her presence in my life, that I can calmly let go.  But I went through a difficult period even just considering what her loss could mean for my life.  It was just not easy.
The farewell of Jesus was not to be the same farewell we go through with loved ones and friends.  When most of them are gone, yes, we are forever alone and at times, lost.  A friend told me, that in losing a loved one, you never really succeed in “getting over it”.  You just have to “learn to live with it.”
But Jesus’ farewell was a source of power and energy to his disciples.  As he leaves them, he imparts a blessing and fills them with authority.  In a way, he is telling them, he is really not far from them.  Maybe he is invisible, but his presence is even more concrete. His power is present in their midst.
You will drive out demons.  You will speak new languages.  You will not be harmed by snakes or poisons.  You will heal the sick. – All these would happen because Jesus said goodbye.  Yes, with our eyes, we cannot see Jesus now and we cannot touch him with our hands as we wish we could.  But with faith we know that he who went to heaven is in our midst, in our hearts, when we look upon him in faith.  Jesus is the power we feel in doing every good for the Kingdom.