Many years ago I read a book called Necessary Losses that had a long but instructive subtitle: The Loves, Illusions, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. I was reminded of that title by this morning’s gospel, part of what is known as ” the farewell discourse” in John’s gospel (Jn 16:5-11). Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going back “to the One who sent me” even though he knows they will grieve his departure. Then he says, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Of course, they probably had no idea what he was talking about – in the same way, perhaps, as we often heard in our youth that “it’s for your own good.” It never seems to make much sense in the moment but in hindsight we can often understand the purpose of those words.
Last night’s “Mystic of the Month” presentation on Julian of Norwich included lots of conversation of Julian’s embrace of suffering. She was certainly not masochistic, but understood that suffering most often leads to transformation if we accept rather than resisting it. I’m still pondering the truth of these thoughts in my life, knowing that the feast of Pentecost is coming soon when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that still occurs in our world. Would I love to see Jesus in the flesh? Of course! But the wisdom that prompted his departure, which we celebrate on the feast of the Ascension, teaches us that there is more to life than the physical form and holding on to that keeps us sometimes from going deeper into the truth
of eternal and unconditional love. So Julian’s famous words that “…all shall
be well…” may not satisfy us but might just help us to hold on, trusting God
to always act for our good.