May 16, 2020
The French are famous for many things, including the number of different ways they have to say goodbye to someone. The most well-known is “Adieu!” It literally means, “until God.” Unlike many other farewells that speak to a time in the near future when we will see one another, Adieu has a certain finality to it. We say Adieu knowing that, likely, the next time we see one another will be in the arms of God.
As much as Adieu looks forward, it looks backwards in equal parts. In this simple word, the person is saying that our shared experience, everything that we have done together - the joys and the pain - will sustain me “until God.” Adieu is no cavalier “bye” or “see ya.” It is profound and something reserved for the closest of friends or lovers. Equal parts joy for what has been shared as pain for the time that must pass before it can happen once again.
Bible scholars will call it his ‘farewell discourse,’ but that doesn’t come close to what this really is - in today's gospel Jesus bids us Adieu. And as he does so, he has just a couple of words to remind us of our task before he departs.
His final instructions are simple. As he leaves, he asks only one thing of us - follow my commandments. While he taught a lot during his ministry, he only had two commandments. First, love God with everything we have. Secondly, love one another. That’s it. He didn’t us with a laundry list of things that we needed to accomplish to bring about the kingdom. And I have to say that I often wonder how many of the rules that we Catholics seem to find necessary would stand up to the scrutiny of Jesus’ final words. But that’s another homily.
Love God. Love one another. Simple to say, but darn difficult for us to do.
Luckily Jesus didn’t leave us alone to figure this out. He left behind the Advocate, or Spirit. - someone to provide help, or aid. This advocate is the one who helps guide us through the darkness and confusing paths of life. We can’t see it, but our faith allows us to know that he is there.
Sometimes though, I am convinced that the workings of the Advocate are not as invisible as we’d like to assume. The past few months, I’ve seen the Advocate at work. In the nurse who, day after day, puts on a mask and gown to minister to the sick and dying. In the grandchild who has stood in front of a window to wave to their grandparents. In the teachers who have put in countless hours working with students to get them through this difficult and confusing time.
These are the works of the Advocate. And in a real way, each of us becomes a visible sign of its presence when we allow ourselves to become the body in which it dwells. This is our own deification - God living within us.
Some things to think about on this sixth Sunday of Easter. In this quarantine period, much of what we thought made life worth living has been taken away from us. But maybe we have it backwards. Just maybe this is what we needed - taking away all that distracts us so that we can rediscover the reason we were created. To love God. And to love one another unconditionally. And, finally, that he didn’t leave us alone to figure it out. Adieu.