Monday, July 15, 2013

The Impermanence of Goodbye

Yesterday, my favorite priest said his final Mass at our parish. He has volunteered to take on a new ministry, and will no longer be part of the day-to-day workings of our parish -- a development that he describes as "going off the payroll." A beacon of light and inspiration -- along with ADHD-level energy and wonderful voice -- he will be greatly missed.

He said something in his homily that I knew I should have written down, but whipping out a pen and pad in the middle of Mass seemed inappropriate -- even if I could have dug one out of my choir bag. It had to do with goodbyes and greetings, and how one sign of friendship is when we greet each other with the same amount of affection and enthusiasm that we express when we are saying goodbye.

As usual, his remarks hit home. I've been thinking a lot lately about how life changes often reveal who our true friends are. It's hard to believe that almost a year of retirement is behind me, and quite interesting to see who's stuck around.

Lives are busy and friendship is a time-consuming endeavor. It's easy to unintentionally lose touch, even when we neither mean to nor want to -- too easy to stay in our own little ruts doing the same things with the same people, forgetting to reach out to those whose lives are running parallel to our own. I'm grateful to those who are better at initiation than I am, often extending an invitation just when I need it the most -- sometimes even before I know I need it.

The Gospel reading yesterday was -- fittingly enough -- that of the Good Samaritan, and Father Dennis talked about the difference between being "nice" and being "loving." In short, being loving means going the extra mile, doing -- as the good Samaritan did -- more than others would routinely do. Being the one to reach out.

I'm grateful to those who continue to reach out to me -- those whose greetings routinely remain as enthusiastic now as they did at good-bye. As I approach my second year of retirement, it's time for me to work harder at being a good Samaritan -- time to look for opportunities to be the one to reach out, instead of staying in my rut, waiting for someone else to extend the invitation. Time to nurture old friendships while exploring new ones.

I will miss Father Dennis greatly, but I know I will think of him every time I hear the story of the Good Samaritan.

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