In the first reading today from Acts 20, we hear the conclusion of Paul’s farewell address to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus. What a stirring and moving speech. In it, he quotes Jesus with words that we do not hear in any of the four Gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In the Gospel from John 17, Jesus speaks to the disciples about being “consecrated in the truth.”
It is rarely easy to say goodbye. And it is especially hard when you really love the people to whom you are saying goodbye. That is why you can hear the passion in Paul’s voice as he bids farewell to the Church of Ephesus. And like in any good farewell address, he gives his listeners some advice. “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock…be vigilant…keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus…” Always nice to leave wise words with people, isn’t it. Paul was putting the finishing touches on the ministry that he had undertaken for the past three years.
But words were not the end for Paul. Paul was a man of words and action. And his final action is one that we would do well to remember. “When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all.” It reminds me of those times when we say goodbye. Even simple ones. When we send our children off to school, even for the day. Or to college. When we say goodbye to our spouse as we head out to work. Wouldn’t it be a nice finishing touch to pray with them? St. Paul thought so.
Father, we thank you for the precious time we have with those we love. When our time comes to depart, may we finish with prayer. Amen.