In the days following the passion and death of Jesus, his friends and relatives were a bereaved family. They had suffered the loss of the one they loved, the one they hoped would change the world as he had changed their lives.
They went through forty days of that mixture of grief and hope, sadness and faith, which is the experience of all bereaved people. Some of them had seen or experienced his risen presence bringing peace and calm, but those experiences didn’t last and others weren’t sure if they were real or not. They sat around, telling stories and trying to make sense of their loss.
Now, forty days after he was torn from their lives in the brutal agony of the cross, he appeared once more, only to be taken from them again, but this time the experience was completely different. As he left, he blessed them and promised two gifts: the gift of his Spirit, leading them into truth and reminding them of all he had said, and the gift of his presence always with them, through his word, through the community of his followers and most tangibly through the gift of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. This second leaving filled them with joy and with anticipation of his return in glory.
We are still waiting for Jesus to return in glory, but we have the gifts of his Spirit and his presence, gifts that our children and young people will receive this week in the sacraments of Confirmation and Communion.
We have many ways of remembering our loved ones. At home we have photos and videos, cards and letters, mementos, stories and memories we share. Here in church, we can light a candle, inscribe their names in the Memorial Book, have a Mass said. We can dedicate a candle to them during our forty hours devotion or donate the vessels and other things used for Mass in their name. But the most important way we can honour them is by the witness of our own lives. Jesus’ final command to his followers was that they should be witnesses that he had suffered, died and risen again to bring about repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We too are witnesses to this.