Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Life is Full of Encounters and Departures

Life is full of encounters and departures, of hellos and goodbyes. A priest writing in the With Bible magazine reflects on his own departure from his first parish. Though eagerly looking forward to what the future will bring, he recalls those five years that went by so quickly with its joyful and sorrowful moments.

During the farewell Mass he cried, he said, surprised by his tears. Isn't the life of a priest full of encounters and departures? he asked himself. What had built up this emotion? He was leaving without any mishaps; there should be a feeling of relief from the responsibilities of parish life. After all, he will be living under the same heaven as his parishioners, though he feels he will not meet them again.
One of the phrases often heard is that none of our meetings is forever. God does not want us to have encounters that do not end in this world. The vehicle we travel in repeatedly picks up and drops off its travelers as we journey through life.

The writer reflects on the many people he has met and separated from daily. Names and faces he doesn't remember, much like the wind that comes and goes. Or like those who came into his life like a violent storm and shook it completely. Sadly, there have been some, he admits, who came into his life to leave scars but many have been a great blessing to him. With these plentiful encounters and departures, seemingly relating together harmoniously, he has become, he believes, the person he is today.

What is it that lasts forever? Shusaku Endo (1923-19996), in his novel The World around the Dead Sea, has Pilate ask this question of Jesus. Jesus answers: "Those in life who have been touched by me, even if only fleetingly, will forever be encountering me." This is true of us also, says the priest; every person we have touched in any encounter will remain forever with us. It's also important to remember that every one of our actions and words can be either helpful or hurtful to that person.

What traces are left behind after the encounter and departure? This is what is most important, he says. Buddhism says that even touching the garment of another is destiny. But more than with encounters, in farewells everything seemingly comes to mind: the folly and the mistakes, the good and the bad, the love received and given, the care, the friendship, the acts of forgiveness. It is, he says, very much like separating from your first love. The priest loved  his first parishioners and hopes only the good traces will remain now that he has bid his farewells. He is certain that the meetings and farewells of our lives, even when they have long ago slipped into the past, will remain an important part of our lives.

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