In his morning Mass Tuesday, Pope Francis pondered the many “goodbyes” in our lives and drew attention to persecuted Christians throughout the world, reminding his hearers that each “farewell” could be our last.
Both readings at Mass spoke of “farewells” Tuesday, and Pope Francis capitalized on the opportunity to reflect on what it means to say goodbye to our loved ones, and even to our lives on earth.
In his homily, given in the chapel at the Santa Marta residence where Francis lives in the Vatican, the Pope noted that Jesus takes leave of his disciples at the Last Supper before his death and ascension to the Father, and St. Paul weeps with the elders from Ephesus as he bids them farewell before going to Jerusalem. “Jesus bids farewell, Paul bids farewell, and this will help us to reflect on our farewell,” he said.
The Pope’s thoughts turned immediately to persecuted Christians throughout the world who wake up each day wondering whether it may be their last.
“We think today of those poor Rohingya of Myanmar. When leaving their homeland to escape persecution they did not know what would happen to them.”
“And for months they are in a boat, and when they finally arrive in a city, where they receive water and food, they are told: ‘go away.’ This is a farewell,” he said.
“Think of the farewell of Christians and Yazidis, who think they will never return to their land because they have been chased from their homes. Today.”
But for a Christian, what does it mean to “say goodbye”? the Pope asked.
In our lives, he said, “there are so many goodbyes,” small and large, and there is “so much suffering, so many tears in so many of them.”
Think, he said, of the “goodbye from a mother, who gives a final hug to her son going off to war,” and every day she wakes up with the fear “someone will come and tell her, ‘Thank you so much for the generosity of your son who gave his life for his country.’”
And then there is “the final farewell that we all have to face, when the Lord calls us to the other side. I think of this,” he said.
These great farewells in life, especially “the last one” are not the temporary goodbyes of “see you soon” or “I’ll see you later,” Francis said, that one says when he knows when and how he will return, but the definitive “goodbye.”
The Pope questioned whether Christians really think enough about their own death, the final farewell to life on earth. “Do I think of the big farewell, my great farewell, not when I will say, ‘See you later,’ or ‘Until next time,’ or ‘See you soon,’ but ‘Goodbye’?” he asked.
The only solution to the “great farewell” is trust in God, Francis said. He reminded his hearers of the origins of the Italian word for goodbye, “addio,” which literally means “to God” (just as the English goodbye comes from “God be with ye”).
As we think of Jesus and Saint Paul and their farewells, Francis said, we do well to think of our own. “Who will be the person to close my eyes?”
“It is good for me to imagine myself at that time,” he said, and to make an examination of conscience: “What did I do? I did this, that, the other thing.”
“Am I prepared to entrust my dear ones to God? To entrust myself to God?” he asked.
The Pope concluded his words by encouraging everyone to “to think that one day” we must also say that word “goodbye,” and we must say, “I entrust my soul to God; I entrust my history to God; I entrust my loved ones to God; I entrust everything to God,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.