After looking through what feels like hundreds of pictures of graduation, I’m still in denial that an entire class of my friends and sisters has now gotten a piece of paper telling them it’s time to go out into the world and do something new. It’s hard to think that there are so many people who I won’t see again for a really long time. Those of you who just graduated (and also those of you who are transferring, moving, or in any way leaving me), I have two words for you: you suck. (Except, you don’t really. You’ve come a long way and I’m proud of you.) I love you all. Truly, I do. Oh, and uh, congratulations!

With a little less than a month left of my semester here, I know I’ll be the one leaving pretty soon too. That’s a whole bunch of goodbyes that I don’t want to say. I hate goodbyes. I hate the idea of getting to know someone, only to have to turn around and say, “Hey, I might never see you again. But it’s been nice knowing you.” Why do people come into our lives, only to leave just as quickly as they came?

I think that’s a question that the disciples asked in today’s Gospel. Jesus warned them that his time on Earth was running short. He had to return to the Father. He had to go home. He said to his followers, “You are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going.” I don’t think his followers knew quite what to make of that statement. For me though, I know exactly what he means. My time here in England is running short. Soon it will be time to return home. But that’s just something I have to do. It’s something we all have to do. There is so much of the world to see, so many things to be done, that we can’t stay in one place forever. It is necessary for our lives to change in order for us to grow.

Many people come into our lives. Some stay only for the briefest of moments. Every person has some sort of impact on us, even if we don’t recognize how small. What Jesus tells us is that this change, this flow of people, is good for us. Jesus had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to enter the world. It’s like John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus, and then when Jesus entered the scene John said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Some people have to go in order for others to enter at the right moment. If people didn’t come and go in our lives, then we would be static. We learn so much from other people. I think Wicked says it best:

“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason,
Bringing something we must learn,
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow, if we let them,
And we help them in return.
Now I don’t know if I believe that’s true,
But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood,
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but,
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good.”

Even Jesus himself couldn’t stay on Earth forever. At least, not in the same way. It wasn’t until after he had ascended up to heaven and sent another person (the Holy Spirit) that the Church really began to grow. If Jesus hadn’t left, then the disciples wouldn’t have had the same reason to go out and tell the world the good news. They would have been content to stay in one place, following the lead of their leader, if Jesus had stayed put. Because he didn’t, however, and because Jesus left this Earth, the disciples had to learn how to continue their lives. They had to change and grow. It’s just an ever-changing world, I suppose.

I hate to say goodbye to all of you wonderful people, and I will miss you, but I know you’ve made me who I am. Some of you I will see almost as soon as I return to the States, others of you I can’t predict when (or if) we’ll meet again. I guess that’s the hard part about going to a school where students come from all corners of the country. I guess it’s also a good thing that I have a love of travelling, so don’t be surprised when I end up in your hometown!

And to my friends in England . . . well, I’m not leaving you yet so I’m not going to say goodbye. But I will say thank you.

“It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So let me say before we part,
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me,
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its moorings by a wind off the sea,
like a seed dropped by a sky bird in a distant wood,
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but,
because I knew you
I have been changed for good